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A Lily 'Saru l-Qamar' - press release

James Vella returns as his musical alias A Lily with the new album ‘Saru l-Qamar’ - setting archival Maltese home recordings to new music for an album of trademark nostalgic quasi-ambiance.

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


“Thanks to the Maltese language's old Arabic roots and Vella's ambient inclinations, the music [on Saru I-Oamar] evokes a crossroads between Saint Abdullah's grandiose, industrialised compositions of Shia orations and the cosy nostalgia of Ernest Hood's suburban neighbourhood field recordings.” - The Wire

“Vella brings an impressionist response to his sources, lifting them into the evocative space of memory and dream on clouds of glowing hardware synthesis. Holding their mystery and humanity.” - The Quietus

From the 60’s until the modern era, it was common for Maltese families to receive reel tapes from relatives abroad. Maltese emigrés 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’ Tracklist:

1. Żeżina Ddoqq is-Sħab

2. Kemm Nixtieq Li Qed

3. Flimkien Ngħaddu Mill-Bieb

4. Ħajti Kollha, Qalbi

5. Nitolbu Lil Dawk Li Lejlu

6. Tħallinix

7. Erba' Aħwa

8. Sirna l-Qamar

9. Issa, Kuljum, Għal Dejjem Żgħażagħ

Saru l-Qamar is available now on limited coloured vinyl, digital and streaming platforms. Order a physical copy from Bandcamp HERE

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 12 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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