After a classical-tinged intro, the first taste of Blue Gardens is a remix of last year's "Dream Phone," which sets tinny bloops against a firm backbone. There's something almost ragged about her 8-bit synths, like they've been rubbed raw against cement. On "Cherry Favour," melodies billow out in a funky reggae cadence. Reggae and dub loom over the album, quietly putting a skank in her rhythms and sneaking in catchy figures without interrupting the ebb of a groove.
E.m.m.a.'s greatest success comes from how well she synthesizes her influences. You could point to a lot of signifiers on Blue Gardens, but none of them come unadulterated; instead they're all mashed together into a whole. Only the vocal track "Jahovia" feels hackneyed, but even that's backed up with an instrumental vivid enough to distract from Rebel MC's paean to Haile Selassie and other Rastafarian figures.
Blue Gardens' final passage feels almost laid-back, exploring Keysound's trademark 130 BPM sound as a vehicle for careful intricacy. E.m.m.a.'s melodies only look better set against rhythms that let them breathe. Straddling the line between familiar and futuristic, she's a fitting addition to Martin Clark's roster, and Blue Gardens is another milestone in a banner year for one of the UK's most consistently exciting labels.