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Look up there.

Wouldya look at that cover?!

I mean, look at it.

That cover is everything, to the atom, that I would have wanted from a video game, from a toy, from a cartoon, as a child. The neon-on-black, HUD vibes of its logo. The cybernetic suggestions adorning Jasper Patterson (for it is he)'s shadowy visage. It's Metal Gear. It's Perfect Dark. It's Fade to Black. It's so. Fucking. Cool.

It's also the first indication of where Patterson has been fuelling up for Frozen Throne, his third full-length as Groundislava. Nah, not video games necessarily (though the connection between those and his music has been well documented), but the '90s in particular. The once dark-haired boy has had a peroxide makeover, coming off something like a disco'd-up version of Keifer Sutherland circa-Flatliners. Speaking of whom, Frozen Throne's high-concept sci-fi thrust (boy lives in dystopian future, comes to rely on electronic girl-dream, girl disappears, boy goes postal) evokes the likes of (don't say fucking Bladerunner, do not say fucking Bladerunner) Sutherland-starring '90s flick Dark City, as well as a smidge of Total Recall, or anything else set in a fucked-up metropolis that exacerbates the equally fucked-up psychology of its protagonist. The music itself is Patterson's most overt flirtation with that decade's dance music, as well as its pop and R&B (whatever that means anymore); a weird kind of nostalgia for a view of future past.

So from the pizzicato/panpipes balladeering of album opener 'Girl Behind The Glass', we're dragged willingly or no to the decade of my childhood by R Kelly's dread hand, and in this sense, Frozen Throne is as transportive as its concept. Patterson cherry-picks from a bank of '90s staples throughout the record, from sort-of-sexy slow jams ('Under the Glow'), to clattering breakbeat ('Terminate Uplink'), to bouncy garage ('Feel the Heat'). Thing is, most of my fellow citizens into this sort of thing twenty years ago were also busy crunching their way through fistfuls of blue doves and being part of the biggest countercultural movement since 1967. What sounded good then doesn't necessarily hold up so well now, and much of Frozen Throne can come across pastiche rather than reinvention. 'Girl Behind the Glass' almost gets powerful when it stops relying on its interminably-repeated, Dali-dripping titular epithet and drops away into Patterson's searing keys, but the moment's all too brief. 'Feel the Heat's bloopy bassline works the other way, slinking into the party to high fives and raised drinks, only to wobble out to a ubiquitous facepalm two and a half minutes later, when its goofy spring-loaded synth buddy shows up and makes an arse out of himself.

It's not that Patterson can't fashion something beautiful out of nostalgia, as anyone familiar with his videogame-evoking oeuvre thus far will know. The guy's a past master at wringing warm emotion from cold machines, especially when paired with a doleful voice - any of the Jake Weary-featuring cuts on his debut speak to this. That record also demonstrated his deftness with a dance track, and not all of that magic is lost on Frozen Throne. The aforementioned 'Terminate Uplink' is the record's most successful marriage of banger and concept, conjuring Tron-coloured landscapes, a lightspeed ride through a motherboard jungle, soundtracked by frenetic, quietly explosive drum patterns. It's followed by the title track, which ranks among the most majestic pieces of music that Patterson's ever created, whipping itself up from TV-static snowfall to Balearic euphoria via Anthony Calonico's bruised soul. Patterson has tapped up Calonico's 'Future Pop' outfit Rare Times for inclusion across much of Frozen Throne, and whilst it makes sense to have one recurring voice across a record like this, Rare Times are more often to be found dropping clunkers than weaving rich imagery. Chief culprit is 'October Pt 2', on which Calonico repeatedly emotes the creepy, vaguely stalkery hook "So don't run away, let this be your new home," over sickly house that owes more than a little to Whigfield's 'Saturday Night'. A band like Rare Times doesn't need to excel lyrically in their normal, croony context, but for a record with this kind of thematic drive, their high-saccharine melodrama swaps out power supply for blown fuses.

This is all kind of a shame, because Patterson sure as shit knows how to dial in his tones, and in many ways Frozen Throne is his most cohesive body of work yet. Where before he went from the gentle calm of synthesized seashores to flipping the bird at brostep in the space of a song, everything here feels like the same, radar-hued record, and that's to its credit. But, like coming back on regular solids after binging on chocolate cereal, the tooth-rotting sugariness of Frozen Throne's poppier cuts tend to overpower its mood pieces, so 'The Descent's near-subliminal bass grind, or the Ozrics-channeling keyboard duels on 'October Acid' get lost in the record's more syrupy excesses, rendered empty where they should be substantial. Instead of smashing apart and reassembling its twenty-something visual and sonic template, built in a time when our tastes ran simpler and summers stretched on into infinity, Frozen Throne relies on sentimentality for its weight, and listening can come off something like revisiting your favourite Saturday morning cartoons as an adult: more head-splitting brightness than genuine magic.

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