Oxford, UK, December 07, 2023 Electronic musician and synth pioneer Lisa Bella Donna has been as prolific as ever, releasing no less than 13 albums since the beginning of last year. With each new recording she continues to refine her working process in the studio, so she is able to capture her signature detailed sounds — each representing a unique and delightful journey for the listener. After acquiring a Solid State Logic SiX mixer back in 2020, she has since extended her SSL studio ecosystem with a BiG SiX desktop analogue mixer, a FUSION analogue processor and THE BUS+ compressor.

“It all started with the SSL SiX a few years ago, and now that the BiG SiX is in my set up, it has pretty much been on every record ever since,” she says. “The mixing abilities of BiG SiX are remarkable and the interface so flexible — I loved using it so much in the studio, that I decided to put it in a rack so I could use it on the road as well.”

Bella Donna’s most recent album, Electronic Voyages, available in both digital format and limited-edition vinyl, is an instant classic in the Berlin School heritage of modern synth music. Consisting of long-form instrumental tracks including “Double-Image”, “Inner Space”, “Metempsychosis”, and “Cosmotopia”, each of the album’s ‘four phases’ take listeners on a journey through different spectrums of synthesis — each with its own nuanced and expertly composed collection of sounds.

Electronic Voyages and a hybrid workflow 

On Electronic Voyages and other recent work, Bella Donna has evolved her workflow into a hybrid of analogue tracking, mixing with a combination of plug-ins and outboard gear, and finally, analogue summing to create her final stereo mixes. “I love tracking with the BiG SiX, but mixing down with it is an especially rewarding experience, because you can choose a strictly analogue signal path, or go hybrid and use plug-ins on specific channels,” she says. “And when you pull these faders up, and dial in a little bit of EQ and compression, it is just remarkable.”

“I feel that EQ plays a big role in getting the juice or soul out of something,” Bella Donna says. “I use the EQs on the BiG SiX pretty aggressively sometimes — even without stereo imaging and delays, you can get a highly dimensional sound with EQ because you are able to pull out little modulations living in that soundscape.”

For Bella Donna, the BiG SiX contains the perfect form factor and level of control she requires while tracking and mixing. “One of the things that I loved about putting the BiG SiX in my studio is that it is helping establish a precedent of how many channels I typically want to use on a recording,” she explains. “For instance, Electronic Voyages is no more than eight channels, yet my entire room is full of modular synthesizers. All the trunk lines in my system come into a patchbay that routes directly into the BiG SiX.”

On Electronic Voyages, Bella Donna tracked everything directly from BiG SiX to an eight-channel tape deck; this was then transferred to the computer for more overdubs and treatment before sending back through the BiG SiX for final summing. While tracking, she says she typically runs stereo groups into the BiG SiX for her synth voices and assigns drums, percussion or sub bass frequencies to the mono channels. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bella Donna likes to ‘print’ exactly what is coming out of her system: “For lot of what I do, everything is kind of committed coming right out of the modular. Then I will do overdubs, usually one piece or voice at a time.”

Synth magic with Fusion and THE BUS+

One of her more recent ‘secret weapons’ is THE BUS+ compressor, which she also uses for both tracking and mixing. “I have (8) Moog 960 sequencers in my modular, and I will have a set of these doing the main part in a piece of music, but then I will have an additional sequencer routed to the side chain of THE BUS+. Using this method of sidechaining on THE BUS+, I can gate or attenuate the amount of compression I want to use for a specific step on the sequence.” THE BUS+’s is fantastic,” she continues. “Being able to get nice movement out of an envelope by compressing or expanding frequencies is great. It just really works well with electronic music.”

Bella Donna also uses the SSL Fusion — not only on her sequences, but other ‘sparkly parts’ of her compositions that bring more dimension: “What’s really fun to do is to have a sequence routed to the FUSION, then cranking up the Vintage knob and then pulling it back. That thing sounds remarkable and adds so much colour and dimension. The Fusion has a very musical set of EQ and filters in there, and I was thrilled to get that into my set up.”

Like most of her electronic music catalogue, Electronic Voyages is meant to be listened to actively rather than passively, and this is how it was created: “My electronic music is not prim and proper — I like some rough edges and I like extreme dynamics,” she says. “How much can I get out of the stereo space? How far can I make the listener feel like there is somewhere else in the stereo space. This is why I use synthesizers. I spent years playing other instruments, but as a composer, this is where I found that I have a level of control that I cannot get out of other instruments. I want to create a huge sonic tapestry of frequencies for my listener.”

To learn more about Lisa Bella Donna, please visit www.lisabelladonna.com. To preview or purchase her new album Electronic Voyages, please visit Lisa Bella Donna’s Bandcamp page: https://lisabelladonna.bandcamp.com/album/electronic-voyages-2.

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