Music Review: CHLLNGR – Datter (2012, Time No Place)

Between subbass heaviness and celestial soulfulness, the latest EP of CHLLNGR further sculpts an IDM sound sensible to droning ambience

CHLLNGR datter

Genre: IDM / Dub / Ambient

Country: Denmark

Artists Website: Tumblr

Label: Time No Place

Some fellow music critics have labelled CHLLNGR as post-dubstep, a term that is increasingly coming up to describe a broadening palette of styles mixed with dubstep, most notably earlier UK garage and 2-step as well as ambient. While last year’s longplayer ‘Hope’ was definitely forging its way towards the post-dubstep direction, ‘Datter’ EP is slightly diverting Steven Borth’s (the man behind CHLLNGR) course. If the origin of CHLLNGR’s sound lies in the vaults of dubstep, then the current outcome is closer to IDM and to a lesser extend ambient with heavy use of (soul-pop) vocals.

‘Datter’, the title track, is probably the most enjoyable. It is a well-crafted mix of ambient drones, sparse soulful vocals and percussive IDM arrangements which sound like stalactite drops on a hidden cavernous lake. Steven Borth builds on the antithesis of psychedelic ridges of heavy sounds and the ethereal, soulful vocals. The bass is rumbling in low frequencies, very slow almost atonic while the rattling percussions are merging with reverbs and echoes apt for an evasive trip in Earth’s innermost labyrinths. The result comes close to the effect of Jesu’s recordings , where Justin Broadrick’s pop vocals stand against crashing heaviness of droning distortions. Of course this patent has also become a standard in dubstep productions (e.g. Burial, but also more commercially-oriented releases). However, CHLLNGR’s approach is more underground and experimental.

The second number ‘Desire’ is remarkably different, and although featuring a heavyweight bassline akin to the early Digital Mysticz and some artful synths, the deliberately austere, tempered, repetitive vocals are not so appealing. The trademark eerie-soft and heavy contrast comes back in the third tune ‘Well, Good’, which is pleasant but less effective compared to the title track. ‘Change’ is mostly known in its astro-dub version as seen in the accomplanying video. Here it comes in a full-vocal reprise, without the galactic synths and bleeps albeit totally hypnotic.

CHLLNGR’s sound bares a lot of beautiful elements and some of the compositions are well-crafted in a way that they can flatter those elements (like in the title track here, or ‘Ask For’ from ‘Hope’ album). While the elements are there as well as the concept, when I listen to ‘Datter’ I get the feeling that the right synthesis is yet to come to showcase CHLLNGR’s potential in full effect. Although the quality of tracks is uneven, the title track is outstanding keeping us with great expectations for the future.

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Explore more ambient dub artists via Freegan Kolektiva:

Rodja – Immanence (2012, mime netlabel)

Morphy – The Three Wise Dubs EP (2011, charity giveaway self-release)

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