Newly arrived in Wellington for university studies, teenage music producer Miromiro already has a history of travel that affords him a wide world view and a sense of history that clearly influences the music he’s released online. Michael Hollywood caught up with Ashok Jacob to talk with him about his second album, mysteriously titled ‘Kembé Falls’.
Wellington-based music producer Ashok Jacob is a firm believer in the notion that our surroundings are key to the type of music we make. That’s what inspires us most.
It’s only natural then, that the Suffolk-born, North Canterbury-raised, city-dwelling 18-year-old offers up a veritable potpourri of influences in the music he releases on Bandcamp, under the guise of Miromiro.
Just twenty seconds into Colombo, the opening track on Miromiro’s ‘Kembé Falls’ album, a live drum sample immediately blends the organic and pastoral, with the electronic and synthetic, in ways that might perfectly encapsulate Jacob’s own well-travelled widescreen view of the world.
That drum sample is just one minor detail, but it’s one that acts as an early marker for what follows on ‘Kembé Falls’. Not so much a template, but a wider stylistic ethos evident right across the entire album – one where the imperfections and limitations of our old world sit comfortably alongside new levels of technological advancement. For Jacob, it helps sate a need to keep the human factor, if not always front and centre, then certainly somewhere close to the core of the music.
“I find that, ironically, programmed drums can only get you so far. You get aspects of warmth and humanity from live drums. I like to use sampled live drums from other records and sample packs, because I find that acoustic drums played by humans have a nicer quality.
“I’m fascinated with imperfection and degradation, and that’s why I pull samples and material from media that’s old and not polished. Even the album artwork for ‘Kembé Falls’ was taken on a four-dollar film camera that I bought off TradeMe. I’ve never done much photography, and you can see from the artwork – a shot of a scene from Arthur’s Pass – that there’s light bleeding and imperfections, and it’s not really focused properly!”
‘Kembé Falls’ is the second of two full-length releases under the Miromiro banner, and the 12-track album has a very retro, almost otherworldly, quality to it. Despite an obvious link to the burgeoning synth-wave scene, Jacob is reluctant to be pigeonholed as to what genre his music might fall under.
“I was into dance music when I was a lot younger, as a lot of 14 and 15-year-olds are, but I found that whole genre and that way of looking at music as kind of limiting. I think not being tied to four-to-the-floor beats and stuff like that allows for a lot more creativity.
“I use a lot of ‘80s synth sounds and a lot of vocal samples. Not necessarily singing, just human speech. I find the rhythmic quality of human speech quite interesting, and I like to trawl through documentaries and news clips from the ‘80s and ‘90s, to try to find nice sound clips. I mean, it doesn’t matter what they’re saying, it’s just the way that it sounds. I find there’s a certain quality to that.
“I think a lot of my music is inspired by surroundings, not just by where I’ve lived in New Zealand, but in general. If you listen you’ll hear that I use a lot of samples from forests and animals.
“I’d usually classify my music as IDM [intelligent dance music] because that’s the type music that inspires it. Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and some of the more mainstream dance music like Bonobo.”
Armed with little more than a “small synthesiser collection”, Logic Pro, and an assortment of sample packs, Jacob has yet to discover how his music might translate in a live environment, and he remains grounded about where music might take him. While he says it would be “very nice” to play live or to find someone to collaborate with, or to pursue, music as a career, they’re things he’s not really given a lot of thought to at this stage.
If anything, there’s an earthy pragmatism, or perhaps even an element of healthy cynicism not usually associated with one so young.
“I’m a little discouraged by the music scene today. It’s in a sort of changing space, with people selling fewer records and with it moving into streaming services.”
Having moved to Wellington from his family’s North Canterbury home as recently as February this year, Jacob is still getting to grips with life as a first-year arts student at Victoria University. Which means, with so many new sights and surrounds to absorb, the musical possibilities for Miromiro might just about be boundless.