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e.m.m.a - Blue Gardens
Debut album of synthed-out grime, garage and UKF abstractions from young Merseyside-via-London producer E.M.M.A.. Keysound is on a bit of a roll (ahem) at the moment, its recent releases placing it at the forefront of the grime revival, and consolidating its role as guardian of core values of the UK hardcore continuum. Furthermore, it has an impressive track record with album releases: since 2008 it’s delivered quality full-lengths from the likes of LV + Joshua Idehen, Sully, LHF, and of course bossmen Dusk + Blackdown. All of this is reason to take proper notice of E.M.M.A’s LP, which arrives a year after her debut 12” on Wavey Tones. Epic, elaborately interwoven synth melodies are at the heart of every track here: FACT mag weren’t a million miles off when they said it sounded a bit like Legowelt turning his hand to garage, though of course contemporaries like Guido and Rustie are also antecedents for these sorts of sounds in this sort of context. So stargazing strings and effervescent step-sequences abound - like Ikonika, you can tell E.M.M.A. is or was a gamer - but remarkably she doesn’t let them overwhelm her tracks’ dancefloor capabilities. Highlights include ‘Jahovia’, with Rebel MC toasting and candyfloss pads blossoming over a spry, minimal, Horsepower-esque breakbeat; the Ghost Box-meets-Zed Bias 2step drift of ‘Marina’; and ruffly swung Sully hook-up ‘Nostrum’; hypna-hop dreamscape ‘Mood Ring’ and the haunting, almost gothic digi-dubstep of ‘At Sea’.