Listen: Rob Walmart

Jeremy Krinsley

Baltimore isn't the only town with gifted weirdos. There's some sort of secret channel between the absurder sides of Wham City and the far-flung tangents of one Rob Walmart, denizen of Portland. It might have something to do with a nuclear-powered submarine and a giant seaworm.

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Whatever the wavelength, Rob Walmart is an enigmatic performer/group with countless collaborators within the Portland music continuum, including Tom Blood, Adam Forkner (White Rainbow), Curtis Knapp (Marriage Records co-founder), and Adrian Orange (Marriage co-founder, Thanksgiving). He's been releasing material since 2000, mainly on Marriage Records, since that label formed in 2002. (Is Marriage the Carpark of the West Coast?)

Perhaps the most novel aspect of the project is The Cube, a van out of which Rob Walmart sometimes perform. (They also refer to it as the “vanue”. Ha. Ha.) It's an amazingly simple yet novel approach to performance, and it's highly flexible: sometimes when Rob Walmart perform from The Cube, they'll send live audio and video inside the venue where they're ostensibly performing. (For those who caught Rob Walmart on their east coast jaunt during CMJ, the ice truck they were using was only a borrowed vehicle, not the van in question.)

But peruse the oddities yourself.

01. An ode to Lionel Richie, in which Mr. Walmart and the 80s soft R&B icon go way back: “I remember being in that retirement center, that insane asylum, whatever they called it and you and me kinda killed the hallways in our scooters… just wearing our bath robes, nothin' else, remember that Lionel?”

Rob Walmart, “Lionel”

02. There's some early techno in here (the project's fake bio begins with “in 1997 Rob Walmart was found wandering the streets of Düsseldorf, no parents, no paperwork”), which adds a layer of weight to the some of his more outlandish mashups of spy thriller novels and family vacations: “As a squad we were invisible, we entered without detection, the security there could not detect us on our waterskis, Canadian security is known to be faulty.”

Rob Walmart, “Waterskiing in Canada”

03. While the off-landish texts that sometimes overtake these tracks might be what distinguish Rob Walmart from other electro-based projects, that early techno, as the song title “What Rob Does Mainly” suggests, is perhaps what provides both consistency and quality to the project.

Rob Walmart, “What Rob Does Mainly”

You can amuse yourself with excerpts from his obfuscating biography, too:

In 1997 Rob Walmart was found wandering the streets of Düsseldorf, no parents, no paperwork. By 1998 we have a record of Social Services taking him in, labeling him succinctly “an unruly child”. No one knew where he came from, he had no paperwork, no cards of any kind. It was a problem again and again with the cops, caught, as he repeatedly would be, climbing into people's houses, sneaking into their basements to play their keyboards. No one ever knew what he did, what he ate, where he slept. In 1999 he was taken and put in a Home for Refugees and for a while stayed there until they released him under his own recognizance, though with several documented intractables. One was that he refused to speak. Another was, when caught again, as he inevitably would be, climbing into the Rec Center to play their keyboards, it was never with identification, or paperwork of any kind. When he was released this continued to be a problem for him, sneaking into people's houses, climbing in their windows to play their keyboards. After a while the cops decided, “Why bother with him anymore? Let him do his thing.” It's not a problem. People love it. It's beautiful. After a few days he would leave and go back to his wanderings. Since then Rob has been wandering around the streets of Portland, going in and out of windows, playing their keyboards. He has no identification, no paperwork, no memory of anything before the keyboard session began. There was nothing, and then there was the keyboard.

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