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A Lily - press release

Saru l-Qamar

Phantom Limb founder and musician James Vella (A Lily)

shares blissful track ‘Kemm Nixtieq Li Qed’

Phantom Limb / Kewn Records | PHNTM041 | LP, Digital | April 5th 2024

Photo Credit: Mark Vella

 About 'Kemm Nixtieq Li Qed'

After sharing ‘Ħajti Kollha, Qalbi’ last month, A Lily (Brighton-based musician James Vella) returns today with another cut from his upcoming new album 'Saru l-Qamar', out 5th April through his own label 'Phantom Limb' – setting archival Maltese home recordings to new music for a fascinating album of nostalgic quasi-ambience and cross-generational dialogue.

Beautifully spacey and blissful, ‘Kemm Nixtieq Li Qed’ translates in English to "how much I wish it were so". Vella explains “While working with the tape recordings from Maltese emigres, this was a remarkably common sentiment - usually in the form of "kemm nixtieq li qiegħed Malta" - "how much I wish I was in Malta". The phrase itself is imbued with sadness, but in this instance that sadness becomes so real, so tangible: in many cases (including my own family's), those that left Malta in that period left in search of more stable political prospects that allowed them to live and work freely. Many were torn away from their home, their friends, their lives. I wanted to express this sadness in my arrangement of the recording, and I wanted to honour the experiences of the speaker on the tape. Not much of his recording has survived the decades since its taping, but even these snatches of audible dialogue reveal a deep lament. My arrangement - as with the rest of the album - is for hardware synthesis, focusing on gentle beat-less rhythms that can tell a story in themselves, and a melody line that floats in a heavily reverberous space to reflect the ghostliness of the passage of time.”

 About 'Saru l-Qamar'

From the 60’s until the modern era, it was common for Maltese families to receive reel tapes from relatives abroad. Maltese emigres resettled in Australia, the UK, Canada etc. would record their news onto cassette - often in the form of għana, traditional Maltese song - and mail the tapes back home. Amazingly, through the superlative archival work of Malta’s nonprofit heritage foundation Magna Żmien, many of these tapes still exist. A Lily (Phantom Limb boss and musician James Vella) - who is Maltese - was allowed access to Magna Żmien’s collection and in late 2022 began creating new musical works responding to these recordings. These works take up the oneiric bliss of new album Saru l-Qamar [Eng: They Became The Moon], his first release on his own label, and released in Malta under Kewn Records.

Arranged alongside hardware synthesis and “minimal DAW intervention”, the recordings on Saru l-Qamar take on ghostly, spiritual new qualities. Simple storytelling and news-sharing (“there was a burglar in the house yesterday”, “I can’t tell you how much I miss Malta”, “do your utmost to spend all your money at the feast”) become plaintive and evocative elegies for friends and family lost to time. “This is the meaning of the album title,” Vella writes. “Though these people have left us, they can never be truly forgotten, as without them we would not be here. They become part of the fabric of our lives, remaining forever and inexorably within the makeup of every subsequent generation. They have become the moon - always present, but always out of reach.”

James Vella’s A Lily project was most recently seen with twin releases Sleep Through the Storm and Nocturne Thunder, released on The Ransom Note’s Bytes label in 2020 and 2022 respectively. These two releases and Saru l-Qamar see Vella turn to synthesis and electronic instrumentation following his more band-orientated previous album of 2018. Vella is also a founding member of acclaimed act yndi halda, and has run the Phantom Limb label since its inception in 2017, releasing a range of eclectic records by Loraine James, Kevin Richard Martin (The Bug), Ami Dang, and more.


Saru l-Qamar

Phantom Limb / Kewn Records | PHNTM041 | LP, Digital | April 5th 2024

Saru l-Qamar’ Tracklist:

1. Żeżina Ddoqq is-Sħab

3. Flimkien Ngħaddu Mill-Bieb

5. Nitolbu Lil Dawk Li Lejlu

6. Tħallinix

7. Erba' Aħwa

8. Sirna l-Qamar

9. Issa, Kuljum, Għal Dejjem Żgħażagħ

Saru l-Qamar will be available on limited coloured vinyl, digital and streaming platforms on 5th April. Pre-order from Bandcamp HERE. To hear the album and any other promo requests, please contact Nicholas Bonello:

Follow A Lily on facebook / instagram / X (formerly Twitter)

About Kewn Records:

Established in 2017, Kewn Records, led by Nick Morales with mentorship from James Vella (of Phantom Limb), fills a void in Malta's music scene. With a goal of elevating local talent professionally, the label, assisted by coordinator Nicholas Bonello, has since released alternative music from the  likes of BILA, The Areola Treat, Krishna, Niket and more. With 6 albums, 8 EPs, and 13 singles, Kewn Records acts as a one-stop shop for musicians, amplifying Malta's musical impact globally.

This project is supported by Arts Council Malta

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