While visiting his ancestral Indian home, Asheq Akhtar was inspired to create The Instrument. His time in Karnasubarna must have been positive, because his sonic reaction is vibrant and warm; the album oozes color like a just-dyed sari drying in the sun.
The presence of infrequently-heard instruments and rhythms lies at the heart of the album’s appeal. (Infrequently, that is, to Western ears.) The best of these is the ektara, Bangladesh’s national instrument, showcased on “The star with only one string”. And yes, there’s only one string used on the track, although this seems nearly impossible given its fullness of sound. The beat is tapped on the skin of the base, making the ektara a one-instrument band. On other tracks, Akhtar uses a pair of second-hand acoustic guitars, often playing actively enough to bust strings. The appealingly ethnic patina of “An uncertain evisceration of nothing” and “DRRMBSL” (which includes voices captured in Karnasubarna) marks them as standouts.
The Instrument was recorded in Akhtar’s living room. As might be expected from such a setup, many natural sounds wander into the mix, including the meowing of a friendly cat. This authenticity makes the album a perfect fit for vinyl. As it turns out, Akhtar had good reason to be in such a good mood; his daughter was born just as the album was completed. The Instrument probably wasn’t played in the waiting room, but it’s a safe bet to guess that it’s been spun as a welcome home, and that the latest addition to the Akhtar family will one day get to see Karnasubarna for herself. (Richard Allen)