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A Lily

5th April 2024

Saru l-Qamar

James Vella returns as his musical alias A Lily and announces his upcoming new album Saru l-Qamar, setting archival Maltese home recordings to new music for a fascinating album of nostalgic quasi-ambience and cross-generational dialogue.

From the 1960’s until the modern era, it was common for families in Malta to receive reel tapes from relatives abroad. Maltese emigrés resettled in the UK, Australia, North America, 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 non-profit heritage foundation Magna Żmien, many of these tapes still exist. A Lily (Phantom Limb label head honcho and musician James Vella, who is Maltese) was allowed access to Magna Żmien’s collection and in late 2022 he began creating new musical works responding to these personal recordings. These works make up the oneiric bliss of the new album Saru l-Qamar [Eng: They Became The Moon], his first release on his own label.

The music and track titles of Saru l-Qamar (pronounced: sarool-’amar) fill in the gaps between the stories, with Vella’s background as a fiction writer readily evident. Though the archival recordings come as snippets - often powerfully and profoundly revealing but rarely longer than a few minutes - through subtle processing and effects (“and a lot of audio cleaning”), Vella gently moulds these generationally personal insights into musical artefacts for arrangement alongside his pulsing, organic, enlivening synthesis. The work of mastering engineer Sean McCann (Recital Records, etc.) elevates the album’s sonics to shimmering heights of carefully balanced light and dark.

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