Asheq Akhtar, in the time spent whilst not – amongst much else – writing music reviews for this very site, spent the last decade in assorted bands before going on musical hiatus in favour of a radical change in direction. Last autumn he appeared in a small experimental film called Self Made, directed by artist Gillian Wearing. A docudrama, it centred on seven non-actors, including Akhtar, who expressed their emotions through method acting. Perhaps applying some of that improvisational technique, he is back to his music roots and on his own as Suborno, and his first solo LP, The Instrument.
The instrument of the title is the acoustic guitar, and Akhtar uses it to create an unfussy and intimate collection of wordless works, featuring sounds sampled from items scattered around his home. It’s mostly improvised, and the result is a slightly indulgent record that still manages to be both ambient and thoughtfully cinematic.
Some of its best tracks are the haziest; And When He Smiled is warm-sounding, gently escalating from its straightforward introduction. Flights centres on a gentle melody surrounded by the odd bit of spoken word dialogue and clattering in the background. The final song, Division/Separation, is just as atmospheric and eerie. Yet he can also be adventurous and immediate when he needs to be. An Uncertain Evisceration Of Nothing is two minutes of bluesy noodling with plenty of twang, a raw and unplugged arrangement underlining his skills as a musician.
At a mere half-hour in length it is an album that doesn’t demand too much, and yet there’s enough variety and musical technique to hold the attention over that time, even if ultimately it’s not an album to fall in love with. But its DIY lo-fi vibes are charming and it ends up staking a clichéd claim to be a soundtrack to a film that hasn’t yet been written. It’s also remarkably cohesive as a listen from beginning to end. Given that it was to an extent improvised, that’s quite some feat. From its niche The Instrument offers a pleasant surprise to anyone prepared to delve.