Kate Schrock picks up a backbeat

Rocket fuel
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  September 29, 2010

beat1_kateschrock_main
RHYTHM + KEYS Kate Schrock and Todd “the Rocket” Richard.

This happens in music all the time, of course: People with no obvious commonality come together because the music they make sounds good. Thus we have Kate and the Rocket, whereby Kate Schrock, a singer/songwritery piano player who not long ago toured the state with her 73-year-old playwright father, has teamed up with drummer/percussionist/producer/DJ Todd "the Rocket" Richard, a co-founder of wepushbuttons and a fixture in the city's electronic-music scene.

But the Rocket is something of a chameleon anyway — he's got a stint in a Christian rock band on the resume and has long played in pop-country Don Campbell's band, as just a sampling — and he seems to revel in helping other people sound better, so it's no real surprise that this duo really works well, as evidenced by the brand-new live EP PCMH, released this week at the PCMH.

Basically, it's Kate Schrock-plus. The songs are hers, a collection of stuff from her back catalog that goes back more than a decade, and so is all of the spotlight, as she provides the melodic elements we tend to focus on when listening to folk-rock like this. The Rocket is the elegant frame to surround the oil painting, the marble pedestal on which stands the sculpture.

Not that Schrock has never been heard with a band before — she has five full-length solo records and there are guitar players and drummers and bassists all over them. The Rocket seems to so nicely complement her playing, though, that it's a wonder she hasn't always been dragging a drummer around with her.

"Stories," the lead track from 2007's Invocation and the first track on the EP, shows this off immediately, the Rocket's throaty floor toms intermingling with the piano's low end. There is an edge supplied by the snare and high-hat that meshes beautifully with the rounded tones of the piano and Schrock's vocals, which are often soaring and elongated.

You'd never know it was live, either, but for the crowd noise after songs and one spot in "The Master" where Schrock seems to momentarily forget a lyric (those pieces of humanity are the best parts of live discs, in general). And that's a criticism, too. With the Rocket's foundation in place, Schrock should have much more freedom to just see where the keyboard takes her, but we don't get to hear much wing-stretching in the few instrumental breaks. Obviously, Schrock is more used to always having to keep every plate in the air by herself, so this part of their live set might develop.

We get a bit of it in the jammy play-out to the closing "Need" (from Indiana), the Rocket's powerful rolls rising with banging chords from Schrock, but it ends fairly quickly.

The EP also offers just a taste of what Richard has up his sleeves as a remixer/producer of Schrock's work. The bonus track here is a fully produced electronic version of Invocation's "Water's Edge," and it's pretty dang cool, with sax snippets, clipped acoustic guitar, distorted synths, and Schrock's vocals cutting crisply through.

It might be more of what you imagined when you first heard of the duo, and who knows where this project will take them, but the good news is that Kate & the Rocket will be recording their performance this week for another release in the near future, so, worse comes to worst, you'll at least get a little more of this.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached atsam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

PCMH | Released by Kate & the Rocket | with Atomik + Butter Bros. | at Port City Music Hall, in Portland | Oct 2 |www.kateandtherocket.com

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