Noah Wall has done a very weird thing. He's surreptitiously field-recorded people trying out instruments at a Guitar Center in Manhattan and made an album of it. Not remixed these unwitting collaborators into pretty, new, funky riffs—just recorded them in a borderline masochistic Hildegard Westerkamp-style soundwalk.
According to his accompanying website, the album was created by simply wandering the store in a pair of spy microphones that look like earbuds. "This place is mostly loners," Wall wrote of the experience. "Trying out a guitar or amp or whatever, they probably didn't come here to jam with others. But the din has an ensemble effect and the unintentional group is abiding some unspoken rules… On two different days, two different people on two different instruments in two different rooms play the same Jackson 5 song."
As a New York musician releasing music since at least 1999, Wall has always had a conceptual streak. Free copies of his fantastic—and more conventional—album Hèloïse were once strategically scattered around the city in an arrangement that spelled out its title (which was also his mother's name). But Live at Guitar Center is really something else.
Personally, the last time I was deep in the Guitar Center game was as a teenager, back when I was sucking at jazz band. If you've ever played an instrument, you've heard this album already, and probably, the cacophony is 90 percent painful. It's like a noise band that has never spoken to one another, attacking you in totally random fits based on the unrelated logics of strangers. But then, after you've endured thirty minutes of arbitrary noodling, some kid starts tenderly whispering Green Day's "Time of Your Life," and it's all worth it. Like, I remember when I thought I could be good, too.
Lead photo courtesy Guitar Center