It’s best to leave the city when you’re going to listen to Suborno‘s The Instrument. Or, if that is not an option, at least remove the lingering chaos and unending distractions of the city in order to give this exquisite album the full attention it deserves. Asheq Akhtar, the mastermind behind Suborno, was inspired to record his first solo album after appearing in Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing’s debut feature film, Self Made. Wearing required the actors to use an improvisational method approach in order to express themselves, a technique which Akhtar transferred to the recording of these mostly instrumental guitar songs in his living room in the UK.
The results are often quite stunning, and due to their strictly improvisational nature, are impossible for Akhtar to faithfully recreate again. There are plenty of found sounds and happy accidents that are left in the recordings, giving the songs an even warmer, more intimate feel to them. But it is Akhtar’s deft guitar work which makes them so initially arresting, as the notes and strains he generates are drenched in a raw, unvarnished emotion that would be ruined by any attempts at words or lyrics. Let the song titles themselves light the way at first, but then just close your eyes and let Akhtar’s proficient playing take you away to somewhere special.
The tracks on The Instrument appear in the order that they were recorded, with Akhtar travelling to his family’s village of Karnasubarna in India part way through the process, which imbues the songs he recorded upon his return with an exploratory feel and a vast spaciousness. There is plenty of room within these delicate arrangements for any true wanderer to think of how they got to where they are, and where indeed they might be going next.
Akhtar created these gorgeous, highly evocative songs using just two second-hand guitars, various items that he had lying around the house, an ektara (the national instrument of Bangladesh which is featured on the appropriately titled ‘The Star With Only One String’) and a PC. That solitary modern contrivance surely helped him generate the ethereal effects on the lovely closing track, ‘Division/Separation’, which takes on even more emotional weight after you find out that Akhtar’s daughter was born shortly after the final mix of the song was mastered.
Throughout all of The Instrument, Akhtar is clearly telling his own story, which gives the tracks a clear cinematic sound and scope. But there is also a definite space that exists within these touching, powerfully poignant numbers that allows for a listener to hear their own unique tale being played slowly back to them.