The music of CHLLNGR (aka Steven Jess Borth II) is a new brand of aesthetic electronica. Focusing on the visual and the visceral as much as the orchestral ambiance of his beats, this Copenhagen-based artist’s debut album, Haven, exhibits more talent and potential than some of the most seasoned veterans.
Following a series of reputable remixes with The xx , M.I.A., Truths and Rights, and Primary 1, Borth has shown his prowess as a musical maven with this debut. Haven’s tracks echo like the deepest crevasses of an abyss, exhibiting the sensual and the lustful, the dark and the mesmerizing. The music is effortlessly seducing, as it evidences Borth’s innate talent, as well as his primal connection with his music. He seems to take his influences from that which surrounds him — the cacophony of nature, as evident in primitive, tribal tracks like “May 3” and “Haven”. In his synthesis of sounds, there seems to be a quest, an anticipation, a desire. If you close your eyes while listening to “Dark Darkness” and “Someone”, you can envision yourself in a forest during twilight, an animal feverous and hungry for the night.
However, there is a divide within Haven – while some tracks are an exposition of nature, of sounds eerily similar to a mocking crow, of branches bristling together in the wind, it then veers into another territory, with songs like “At Last” and “Sun Down”. Here Borth seamlessly mixes hip-hop beats and soothing vocals, with “Haven” and “At Last” featuring his own croon.
In its totality, Haven exhibits an effortless balance between hip hop and Borth’s archetypically haunting, transcendent aural backdrops. It’s an album for fans of electronica and trip hop, and less for those looking for a strictly hip hop album. While it carries the nodal tones and tricks of hip hop’s finest, Haven is a refreshing take on the hardened, streamlined, and sometimes brutal sound of artists like Odd Future and The Cool Kids. Borth tries to carve his own path, and as a producer, he takes more of his modern influences from a diverse convergence of Thievery Corporation, Wax Tailor, and Bon Iver. Borth clearly possesses a creative mind, one taken by novelty and experimentation, and as a piece, Haven is like navigating a labyrinth – its tone will mystify and beguile you, but that is where its allure lies.