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Music Review: Dj Champion – No Heaven Borderlands

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DJ Champion is a Canadian based award winning recording artist, producer, and DJ who some music aficionados might remember. In 2004 his successful release of Chill Em All garnered him heavy recognition as one of Canada’s premiere Dance music DJs/producers. This combined with his 2005 release, Resistance, would garner him many accolades such as ADISQ’S Electro Album of the Year in 2005 and Best Show of the Year in 2006, and Socan Prize for Dance Music in 2007.

I am an avid dance music fan and partied on the dance circuit for many years in the US and Canada. So what a surprise for me to see DJ Champion’s new No Heaven Borderlands EP geared for a US release? At first I was a little disappointed because it is only an EP, and mostly remixes. But then again, when introducing something so experimental into a new market, four tracks is more than enough (and strategic) to give new listeners a brief, yet sweet introduction.

He has pushed the genre barrier, fusing elements of so many different styles. I’ve listened to the EP time and time again, and wondered how I would classify this music. What exact genre could I stick this release neatly into to quantify its existence? (You know we humans like to categorize) But the more I listen, the less I want to categorize it. And I love that! It’s great to listen to an artist who already has some level of commercial success push barriers and be a true artist. With undertones of blues, distorted rock guitars, funky bass lines, elements of electronic, washed out reverbed drums and techno ambient type atmosphere treatments; this music is distinct and easy on the ears.

The history about this release is interesting enough to warrant mentioning. The entitled track, “No Heaven” was on DJ Champion’s first album, and got the attention of Gearbox; a gaming company who would license the track for their science fiction game Borderlands. The ongoing collaboration between these two would continue and ultimately lead up to No Heaven Borderlands being released on Saboteur Musique. This current release contains the original “No Heaven” track as well as remixes of DJ Champions prior releases.

As far as production goes, it is top notched. Some of the mixes leave me feeling a bit unemotional. I get a sense that I would like to hear something bigger…Bigger drum kit, wider stereo spread, and heavier bass. But I am sure they were all done for artistic reasons, as nothing on this release sounds accidental, or for sellable purposes only. I think I am also predisposed to expecting this because I have a mind to think of these releases as a live DJ set. When I don’t get that big explosion they are infamous for, I feel incomplete in some way. But it is an evolution of his musical talents and style. This music feels more grown up and emotionally connected. You can almost tell this is where he was spiritually when doing this music.

Funny enough:  I will be one of the first writers that has no problem contradicting himself in the very same article. What I feel the music lacks in the mix is essentially what makes it so different and so fun to listen to. The lack of heavy effects and over the top stereo panning gives it a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to hear instruments that sound like instruments, and not a computer version. Take one listen to “No 7-11’s” (track 3 of the release) and you will see exactly what I’m getting at. No ear fatigue after 12 or so listens. That just doesn’t happen in today’s music business.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say the American public will reward this EP with heavy radio rotation or millions of downloads, it will surely find its niche market amongst us and do very well in it. It plainly is good music. No category needed. Besides, radio programmers know as much about music as I do about nuclear physics. You can hear “No Heaven Borderlands” EP on saboteur musique or amazon.

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