CD Review

Chocolate Grinder - "Oceans"

By Marcus Pan

OceansLadies Kelly Stewart and Susan Morton make up the Canadian outfit Chocolate Grinder. Their mainstay is their extreme minimalism in creating their music. Their music is made up of three main ingredients - warped beats/drums, synthesizer melodies and angelic vocals. The problem is that it is also this extreme minimalism that is the extreme difficulty in getting into the music of Chocolate Grinder.

The lyrics and singing here are more poetry reading than musical. The beats are there to provide a sense of rhythm and the synthesizer melodies seem to exist purely to provide something for Susan to throw her voice out against. Susan has an extremely fine, high-octave voice, touched with only a pinch of sustain so that they float around you.

The beats that are designed to provide a rhythm to the vocals actually turns out to be the main downfall to the music that drags most of the songs down with their monotonous, constant, almost annoying crashing. The beat tracks rarely change in any of the tracks and instead just bounce onward. They really boom into your gut and grow there so that by the time you reach the end of the CD you're extremely annoyed. You're not quite sure with what, but you're annoyed anyway.

Chocolate Grinder"Oceans" starts off well. The bouncing bass that kicks off Waves of Perfume at the onset make you wonder what you're about to hear - part erotic, part perky. This lasts for but a few seconds, for then the beat kicks in, slamming against the bass at every chance it gets and annoyingly contradicting with the rhythm the bass was trying to provide as the CD kicked off. Susan adds her poetic and floating voice to the mix - that being the saving grace for the CD. The vocals have a rhythm of their own, but combined with the bass line that's fighting with the drum track it takes so much away from what would otherwise be dreamy and wonderful.

The rest of the tracks continue in this manner. Bass lines fighting with drum tracks, but dreamy vocals that almost make the whole spastic rhythm worthwhile. However, track 7, the Melting Man Main Mix of Pale Faced Me, is a wonderful surprise. With a funky bass track that lines up well with the drum, erotic vocals with complimentary synthesizer cuts containing a computeresque sound, it's a great remix with a lot of style. The Thick & Frothy MeM Mix of Antique Valentine is also very well crafted. The backbeat used adds a lot more to the song than the original from track 5. The vocals are up front this time, louder and braver than other tracks. And quite beautiful. The remixes are, strangely enough, better than the original pieces.

While minimal sounds and diva-like vocals are becoming stronger in the goth genres of music, Chocolate Grinder takes the minimalism too far. Far enough to go from minimal to droning. Less may be more in many cases, but this isn't one of them. Sometimes you just have to clutter things a bit more to maintain interest. And keep the rhythm rhythmic.

Contact Information:
Post: Chocolate Grinder, P.O. Box 673, Peterborough, ON, K9J 6Z8, Canada
Phone: (705) 876-8013

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