The Friends of Friends label has been going from strength to strength of late with a remarkable release schedule that can boast some of the finest music to be coming out of the extolled LA beat scene of late (Salva’s recent ‘Complex Housing’ LP and Shlohmo’s ‘Places’ EP are both must-haves). Continuing in trademark style, next up for the label is the debut album from talented young beatsmith Groundislava.

My attention was first really drawn to Jasper Patterson, AKA Groundislava, with the free giveaway of the ‘Book of Tech’ EP, which was a collection of tracks that didn’t quite make the cut for the album. The EP served as a promising introduction to a unique producer that immediately whetted my appetite for the album. Patterson’s music had an indefinable and elusive emotive quality that immediately pulled at something deeper than its superficial parts, expressing a genuine depth and feeling that belied the brash 8-bit sonics. Thankfully, this was an excitement that was completely substantiated by the end product.

The eponymous LP is a sublime collection of music that weaves together the different facets of his sound into a singular and coherent entity. In a broad sense, hip hop works as the foundation for the album, however, Patterson’s sonic tapestries elucidate a love for the linear rhythms of house and techno as well as a wistful electronica undercurrent. The album skilfully covers this wider breadth of territory, exploring the capabilities of 4×4 propulsion on tracks like ‘The Dig’ and ‘Stealth River Mission’, while tracks like the beautiful ‘Final Impasse’ are driven by skittering rhythmic edits.

While the 8-bit sonic palette does provide the fundamental backbone for his music, this is not just another collection of computer game indebted beat explorations. He has a superlative ability to bring out an intensely personal and human sense of emotion out of the synthetic sonics and artificial textures that make up his songs. Delivering the kind of complex and nuanced emotions that are so elusive in instrumental music, the album is at once heartbreakingly sad and completely ecstatic, ebbing and flowing with a human heart.

Part of the frighteningly talented and prolific WEDIDIT collective that counts Henry ‘Shlohmo’ Laufer amongst its members, Groundislava enlists the help of a number of friends on the album. On the awesome swagger of ‘Shlava’ he is joined by Shlohmo with Jon Wayne delivering off-the-cuff vocals, while the extremely talented Jake Weary contributes vocals to a number of the album tracks. Remixes also come courtesy of Young Montana? and Clive Tanaka.

I cannot shout about the album loud enough, and implore you to get hold of it as soon as it is out – you will not regret it.

With the album ready to be released imminently, I caught up with Patterson to get a few questions at him…

6-6-10 basketball by Groundislava

Hi, hows it going?

Pretty good, man.

For those that don’t know, can you please introduce yourself?

I’m Jasper Patterson, aka Groundislava (pronounced ground is lava). I’m from Los Angeles, and a member of WEDIDIT and Friends of Friends. I’m 20 and I can’t go to bars yet.

When did you first get into production, and what impelled you to do so? Was there any defining moment, song or artist for you?

I probably started trying to produce (a very important step in the process haha) around the age of maybe… 15? I remember I was really feeling that M83 album, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and also Before the Dawn Heals Us… although I can’t really remember if that had been released yet. They had this kind of massive, wall-of-sound thing going on that I really dug, and it was all super catchy. I was also listening to Boards of Canada heavy at the time… Geogaddi and Music Has the Right To Children are fucking amazing albums… taught me a lot about subtlety and repetition, although they’re on another level with that shit. Also the AFX Analords albums are fucking nuts. I find a lot of inspiration in all the AFX stuff.

While each of your productions occupies its own territory, they always maintain a really distinctive style. Has this always been what has come out naturally, or is it something you have had to work towards?

I work in a lot of different styles… spent awhile doing house music, hip-hop, non-specific electronica or whatever. I always have had a distinct focus on melody however, regardless of what sort of genre I’m working in. I never was one to use samples heavily. I like ringy square and saw waves, and sine waves that sound like little bells. I get kinda stuck on specific synth sounds and then write as many melodies as possible with them, most of which are never used, or are put in tracks that just rot in some subfolder of my computer. I think my “sound” lends itself to this routine. I often get described with words like 8-bit and NES and gameboy and shit. I definitely played a lot of videogames and shit growing up, but I don’t actually try to make videogame shit all the time…

Is there anything that you feel is inherent to everything that you make? Any fundamental underlying principles to your music?

I strive for an emphasis on melody, while still maintaining a strong sense of percussive rhythm. I like stacking as many melodies as possible and stopping just before it turns into complete cacophony. I’ll often have like 8 synths playing like 4 or 5 different things. I like using white noise. I want people to have an emotional connection with the music that alters with the structure of the song. I definitely pour a lot of emotion into my work and I try to make that accessible to the listener. I have no idea how successful this is, though. Hahaha.

You have a very clear aesthetic that spans not only your music but your artwork as well. Where does this come from? Was it a natural evolution?

It wasn’t until recently that I fully shifted my focus from visual art to music. I started getting frustrated a couple years ago with my art and decided to say “fuck it” and just start drawing the shit I’d draw as a little kid again. Soldiers and tanks and space battles and shit, little comics and peoples’ eyes popping out, or their guts spilling through gaping abdominal wounds. Suddenly all this shit was really dope again because I could apply my much more developed drawing abilities to simpler concepts that appealed to me on a very primal level. I basically took the same path with my music. When I started making music it didn’t sound the way I wanted… I couldn’t ever get the sound I wanted. I turned to making electro music and dance music around 11th grade, and while I didn’t really do everything I wanted to with my music at this time, I learned a shit ton about how to really produce a finished track, how to build and relieve tension, utilize repetition and so on. It was after this I was really able to do what I had initially wanted to way back in like 2004 or 2005 or whatever.

Pulling weeds 7-13-10 by Groundislava

Can you explain what the wedidit collective that you are part of is all about? Does being surrounded by creative people have a positive effect on your music?

WEDIDIT started in highschool. Henry (Shlohmo) and Nick (Melonius Drunk) came up with the name and it basically started there. The original set was Shlohmo, Joe Cool, Juj, Melonius, and I. It was a name for our posse and music… we all constantly made tracks and shared em with each other, gave each other criticism and shit. We did a lot of walking out of parties to bump each other music in the car and smoke. We all went to college in different places after that, but got even closer for some reason. I guess it kinda represents that shit more than anything. We got the blog to post whatever stupid shit we think is funny or dope. It’s basically an outlet for the music and art and dumb jokes we make.

How has the album project been in the making?

It’s been dope. Friends of Friends is the shit. It’s a really interesting album for me because its such a hodgepodge of all the different shit I’m into musically. There’s the shit with Jake Weary that’s super poppy, catchy and bubbly. There’s some super bass-y hip-hop tracks with a Jonwayne feature. There’s some house music. It’s got a little bit of everything. It was like almost 20 tracks initially but I ended up cutting some out and giving it away for free (Book of Tech EP!).

I find that within electronic music, people approach albums in very different ways. Did you set out with a clear vision in mind for what you wanted it to be? If so, do you feel that the initial vision correlates with the outcome?

Definitely. I come up with some melodies and then brainstorm how I want them to sound in the track. I rough out the full composition, then I go back and build each part up till it sounds exactly how I hear it in my head. I’m a very calculated person.

The album is due out on Friends of Friends in April, how did you hook up with them?

That fool Henry aka Shlohmo is one of my best best homies. I was at KXLU for a little radio show feature he was doing and he dropped one of my tracks, Animal. Leeor, the big homie who runs FoF, heard it and we immediately started talking about doing a release. That was like last… spring?

With the album complete and ready for release, have you got any other projects in the pipeline for the foreseeable future?

Yesssss. I have a couple albums that are basically done that I haven’t dropped, and mad other tracks that haven’t really seen the light of day. One of them is this concept EP thing that I have big plans for. I’m really stoked on it. I don’t want to talk too much about it yet.

I Bet I Do (GIL REMIX) by Groundislava

-Groundislava – ‘Groundislava’ is out on Friends of Friends on 19th April