Groundislava (Jasper Patterson) is back with another installment on the Friends of Friends label. After pumping out some remixes and a few EPs, TV Dream has arrived as a five-track EP perfect for poolside lounging and self exploration. No, not your[self] exploration, Patterson’s self exploration. And no, not sexually. Groundislava returns from previous works with a honed sound that pulls back on 8-bit influences and focuses on relaxing dissonance, leaving listeners with a consistently good release.
Groundislava’s 2011 self-titled album was a collaborative petri dish that included five featured artists and two remix tracks. The album was ostensively 8-bit, though at the same time, chock full of featured personas. Petterson offers up only one featured track on TV Dream called “TV Dream” with the ever so danceable Clive Tanaka. While the collaboration is appreciated, the lower featured-tracks-to-entire-album-ratio leaves more room for this project to exist as a well-tended two-part artist cocktail, rather than a 30-dollar, Las Vegas Strip Long Island Iced-Tea. Groundislava and Clive Tanaka combine their powers like those kids from the TV show “Captain Planet”, to produce the a track that complements Global Warming, rather than defeats it, leaving us with four remaining tracks.
What this album is not–a footnote on the 8-bit Wikipedia page. It’s hard to put into words, but Groundislava has taken a genre and turned it into an instrument. When 8-bit influences do exist, they do so without “stealing the show.” Perhaps Patterson felt constrained by a genre that tends to pigeonhole artists into gimmicky tracks and entire albums for that matter. There’s a fine line between an entire 8-bit remix of The Legend of Zelda soundtrack and a well produced electric groove with an 8-bit flare. But, I’ll admit, I really dug that Zelda 8-bit album that was floating around a few months ago, and if Groundislava ever decided to tackle a similar full-scale remix project I would be the first to pick it up. But I digress. Groundislava is not [only] an 8-bit artist. He’s proven on TV Dreams that he is a skilled producer who has learned how to use 8-bit like an accent, not a language.
What remains on this album is some great downtempo, feel-good electronic music. It opens with the track “Weekend in the Tropics.” Imagine a reggae track with a bit of ’80s Hollywood soundtrack mixed in. You could drive all the way to Hawaii and your car would float on the water so long as you had this track on the repeat the entire way. “Tower Jump Suicide” incorporates some bitty synth and dramatic melodies reminiscent on earlier works. “Salt of Love” and “Reflecting” are also very heavy. They access that part of your brain where unsolved mysteries are stored. And, like these tracks, it’s all mystery. If past albums exist as clues to future works, they don’t point to this murder scene.