Review: Eclipse’s “Around the World”

Cincy Hip Hop/Jazz/Rock/Funk ensemble releases dazzling new full-length

Gifted Hip Hop/Funk/Rock/Jazz ensemble Eclipse is set to release its second studio effort, the long-player Around the World, this Sunday at the Southgate House in Newport. Also performing at the 8 p.m. release party are two groups with members who guested on the new album — turntable crew Animal Crackers and funky horns-driven group The Cincy Brass. Click here for tickets and more details.

Around the World is a fantastic representation of Eclipse’s wonderfully eclectic sound. A live Hip Hop band needs to be ultra-tight and Eclipse certainly lives up to that requirement and then some. While your everyday Hip Hop album might contain carefully layered horn or string samples, Eclipse does it live, so the performances have to be flawless. And they are. —-

But the classically-trained musicians in the eight-member unit are more than just fantastic players — the members’ composition and arrangement skills are wildly impressive and imaginative. Meanwhile, vocalists/MCs Jibri and Daddie Rich prove to be just as masterful on their instruments, providing rich hooks and a precise flow that gives the album its cohesion.

Around the World is far from being just a Hip Hop album. It’s the type of all-over-the-place record you could get lost in for days. The album is like a sonic Transformer, shape-shifting throughout (sometimes on a single track) between old- and new-school Hip Hop, classic and modern Jazz, Zappa-eque Progressive Rock and contemporary AltRock, and vintage Funk that connects the dots between James Brown, P-Funk and Earth Wind and Fire.

Eclipse gets things started with the solid title track, with a mean harpsichord riff and a repeating chant by what sounds like small children’s choir. Daddie Rich and Jibri trade off rhymes like longtime boxing sparing partners and deliver an old-school Hip Hop hook (over engulfing power chords) that ensures you’ll have the tune stuck in your noggin for hours (if not months). Undeniable hooks are one of Eclipse’s strongest suits — the slinky, sparkly “Green Electricity” has some great soloing during its middle break, but it’s the catchy chorus (which resembles “Shining Star” by Earth Wind and Fire) that’ll have you putting it on “repeat." Elsewhere, “Automatic” could be a huge radio hit, with its passing resemblance to Gym Class Heroes.

For the instrumental track “3000,” the MCs take a break and the group flexes its musical muscle, perhaps as a way of providing the listeners with a mid-album reminder that there is a real, live, talented collective of musicians creating the sounds, not just some masterful crate-diggin’ DJ. The epic closing track “Transmutations” is all over the place, sounding like a jam session that shifts between Latin rhythms, Contemporary Jazz riffing, Funk horn section charts, a guitar solo that could have been lifted from a Queen album and a barrage of turntable acrobatics and samples. It’s a fitting close, almost as if the band had crafted it as an epilogue to the album, meshing together all of their more impressive, prominent facets.

The album as a whole will, first and foremost, leave you aching to see Eclipse live because it sounds like the whole crew is having a blast in the studio. The songs are definitely party-starting by nature, but there’s so much creativity poured into the music, shaking your ass while listening is not a requirement. You probably won’t be able to help yourself, though. It's a party-starter, but also a conversation-starter.

The end result sounds as if The JBs, Jurassic 5, Weather Report, Digable Planets, King Crimson, Kool and the Gang, Run DMC, Yellowjackets, Ludacris, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest and George Clinton ran into each other backstage at a kick-ass music festival and decided to lock themselves in the studio for a couple of months and have the time of their lives making a killer album.

Like a Cincy version of The Roots, Around the World shows Eclipse to be a stunning collective of musicians with boundless creative energy and an encyclopedic knowledge of music. Not only is Around the World an incredible listening experience, it leaves you ready and willing to follow Eclipse on whatever musical adventures they decide to embark upon in the years to come. With a sophomore album this strong, Eclipse’s future is brighter than a million suns.

(Explore the world of Eclipse here.)

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