It was 2014 when Nadine Axisa released her critically acclaimed album Velvet, it took six years until the follow-up album, Il-Ħoss Tal-Għabex (The Sound of Twilight), saw the light of day. The album title gives the first clue that this might be something different to what went before.
The album involves the reworking of Maltese tunes, most of which were published in the 1970s and 1980s. These compositions were taken through a process of re-imagination, a journey involving experimentation from a melodic, harmonic, rhythmic and sonic perspective.Album liner notes
The opening track, Qalu li Raw, features Nadine’s vocals against a distorted synth, again highlighting the fact that this is not going to be the jazz sound that we might have been expecting. What does remain is the beauty of vocal delivery. This continues through the second track, Iż-Zmien Għaddej, where the vocal is behind the musicians, which gives the track the nostalgic feel that, in the liner notes, Nadine talks about.
As much as I enjoy listening to Nadine Axisa sing (and I have been fortunate enough to hear her perform live) there are times on this album when I wish I could hear a more varied delivery in terms of tone. Sometimes it does feel that Nadine is accompanying the musicians rather than the other way around and she is too good a vocalist for that to be the case.
I did enjoy track six: Fit-Tieġ Tan-Neputija, which is a bit of a toe-tapper and features some interesting sonic effects that took me back to the 1970s – fitting in terms if the source material. Il-Festa, has the vocals a touch more front and central and allows room for the drumming of Manuel Pulis to be appreciated.
Il-Ħoss Tal-Għabex is a nostalgic album, sung entirely in the Maltese language, and that emotion is conveyed through the ethereal quality to the vocal of Nadine Axisa. The piano playing of Joe Debono is at his usual high standard but, unfortunately, I do think that the electronics dominate across a number of tracks and this detracts from what is an appealing and intriguing album.