After the Heatwave comes an album to Eclipse all others… This is the highly anticipated second release from Canada’s creme de la creme, Backburner.
The 2011 album Heatwave saw Canada’s finest indie emcees and producers come together to form the ultimate team up, Backburner. The long and involved process of gathering together so many talents with wildly differing schedules and commitments fell primarily to rapper/producer Timbuktu, who worked arduously to mould the groups debut into a fan favourite and critically acclaimed standout album, thanks in no small part the monster title track that came with an incredible video.
With catchy hooks, sing-along verses, an upbeat groove and lyrics infused with humour, Heatwave set the Backburner crew a high standard to maintain. As the follow up drops, could Hand’Solo Records rue the decision to release The Raw by Ultra Magnus and DJ SLAM! directly before this marquee album? The Raw strikes a hefty blow, potentially heaping even more pressure on the Backburner‘s second coming.
Being a sucker for continuity the first thing that strikes me is the clever title. In contrast to a sun drenched Heatwave comes the Eclipse. Cover artwork skillfully provided by rapper/artist Ghettosocks enhances the effect by bringing elements of the art for the former into the latter whilst maintaining an individuality reflective in the hue and colouring. Both convey the message that something special lies behind the image in the music.
Most of the crew are back for Eclipse including: Timbuktu, Fresh Kils, Ghettosocks, Wordburglar, More or Les, Chokeules, Beatmason, Uncle Fes, Jesse Dangerously, Jay Bizzy, Thesis Sahib, Ambition, Mister E, Johnny Hardcore and Ginzu 333. Joining the group is Savilion who many will know from his part in Swamp Thing a B-Movie horror project alongside Chokeules and Timbuktu. This time around there are guests too, including the ever hard working Random aka Mega Ran, because you can never have too many vocalists on an album, right? So how well do this many artists combine over fourteen tracks?
Each contributor undoubtedly has their own individuality, but if you listen to what’s been coming out of this Halifax/Toronto scene over the last few years you’ll recognise an underlining sound that seems to permeate each release. A heavy 90s era, old-school, boom-bap influence that relies on clever cuts, big kicks and prominent snares. Ingredients that encapsulate what we know of Backburner to date.
Peculiarly the album sets off on an unexpectedly sombre tone with the opener Scarecrows. The track wouldn’t sound out of place on a Swamp Thing release with a downbeat piano riff cutting an eerie backdrop. Lyrics are tinged with a sinister tone and only Wordburglar‘s verse seems to relay any kind of frivolity. Frivolity is something that was found in abundance on Heatwave, a sense of fun permeated the album. Death Defy goes some way to restore the status quo by introducing a bouncy bassline, up-beat samples and a sing-along chorus. Tongue in cheek humour is conveyed via clever lyrics and nerds will find plenty to enjoy in the pop-culture references found throughout the release.
As the album progresses it becomes apparent that the overall feel is more subdued than one might expect. Creepy Crawly is a prime example of how the tone is dialled down and brings with it a slightly twisted feel as a spiralling bassline makes for an interesting proposition, meanwhile careful attention has been paid to splicing the vocals together, particularly in Ghettosocks‘ opening verse. Goon to a Goblin featuring D-Sisive takes things even further down the rabbit hole with a crazy vocal effect and tormenting instrumentation. Even tracks like In The Place (ft Rift & The Mighty Rhino) that have a bounce to them musically, somehow feel more serious than I’d expected.
Without doubt this is a quality album. You have an abundance of talent from some of Canada’s finest vocalists delivering clever lyrics, painstakingly brought together over fourteen tracks. There’s nothing clunky about it and there’s clearly been a great deal of attention paid to getting the levels just so. Subtle tweaks by the producer on tracks like Creepy Crawly, for example, really add to the overall experience but musically Eclipse feels less layered than Heatwave did. There’s a bleaker vibe to it, and although very well executed with some unexpected twists, it’s not quite packing the punch I’d hoped for.
Eclipse feels very much like an extension of Swamp Thing or perhaps Ghettosocks‘ side project Twin Peaks much of the time. It doesn’t actually feel like a continuation of what was started by Backburner three and a bit years ago. Heatwave had a tremendous sense of sass to it. Tracks like Hurtin‘ encapsulate that happy-go-lucky sentiment that could be found from start to finish. It really felt like the crew had a lot of fun making it. Eclipse takes a darker tone reflective of the album title when compared to the summertime fun feel of it’s predecessor.
Fans of Backburner or any of the individual artists involved are going to need this in their collection, but – for those windows down, music up drives – make sure you’ve got a copy of Heatwave too.
Eclipse is out now on the Hand’Solo Records bandcamp page.