Young Jasper Patterson has been doing his thing as Groundislava for some time now—roughly four years, actually. Most of that timespan has seen the producer toying with blippy 8-bit video game sounds and punchy instrumental hip-hop, attempting over and over to find the perfect balance between that kind of niche pop-culture nostalgia and the most nod-worthy of beats. Truthfully, it's relatively familiar territory, especially for an LA-based artist making tracks with a computer. His self-titled LP for SoCal imprint Friends of Friends, which is over a year old now, exhibited 12 examples of that same pairing over the course of about an hour, and yielded a fair amount of surprises, despite the fact that Groundislava was working with well-worn ideas. But it appears that the LP was more than enough to get this stylistic impulse out of his system, as Patterson's latest record, the TV Dream EP, eschews shoehorning more hip-hop tropes into his emotive synth melodies in favor of a focus on refashioning elements of '80s synth-pop.
Even for an EP, TV Dream is short—five songs over the course of 14 minutes—though its brevity serves the purpose of both presenting Groundislava's new sound quickly and giving reason to spin the record at least once more after the first listen. The title track's dense chords, roomy drum patterns, and subtly infectious chorus—delivered in a soft vocoder voice by Clive Tanaka—warrants another listen-through in and of itself. The sullen "Salt of Love" is a two-and-a-half minute production which sounds like a slow-mo version of "Take My Breath Away" (that's actually a compliment) that could rightly go on for at least twice as long. Closing track "Reflecting" and bubbly opener "Weekend in the Tropics" bring to mind the punch-drunk synth work and buzzing preset bass tones of fellow nostalgia champion Com Truise, albeit for half the usual length of his hyper-compressed jams.
M83's Anthony Gonzalez has said before that he wants to make a hip-hop record in his own style of exuberant '80s-pop references, but it would appear that Patterson has sort of beaten him to it. Though TV Dream doesn't feature the outright hip-hop rhythms found in Groundislava's earlier work, there's still enough bounce and slap woven into these cuts to cite it as an influence, and the abundance of poignant themes and reverberated drum machines align his sound closer to that of the French auteur than ever before. With word of an LP coming from Patterson later this year, there's reason to believe he'll continue working in this newfound headspace, and potentially deliver a more sizeable portion of his sugary confections. One full-fledged single and a few brief instrumental tracks may not be sufficient for fans and newcomers in the meantime, but at least Groundislava's EP offers a sampler of some very strong ideas.