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Lisa Bella Donna Reveals New Album Workflow

Electronic music composer Lisa Bella Donna used Solid State Logic’s SiX small format mixer and SSL 2+ interface for her latest release.

Lisa Bella Donna
Lisa Bella Donna

Oxford, UK (January 4, 2021)—Electronic music composer Lisa Bella Donna used Solid State Logic’s SiX small format mixer and SSL 2+ interface to imbue her latest release, December’s Pentacle, with sonic detail.

“On this album, I basically wanted to push the SSL SiX and SSL 2+ to their limits and record a piece that is sonically rich and detailed,” she says. “I carefully tailored every aspect of this recording to my SSL set up — there was no other outboard gear used on this record except for a few plug-ins. It was all tracked, mixed and mastered through the SiX and SSL 2+.”

There are only six stereo tracks on the album, which were sent into the DAW on two separate passes. “For this album, I was simultaneously recording two channels into Logic Pro at 24-bit/96 kHz and two channels into a Fostex 20 analog tape machine, which I would also feed into the DAW,” she explains. “Each time I recorded a pass, I would go both analog and digital from the SSL 2+. Then in the mix phase, I would bring the analog reels in and just line up the audio. I’ve been doing it this way for years.”

Typically, this approach allows Bella Donna to use the tape sound on complex sequences or beefy droning segments, and the purely digital signal on cleaner, quieter parts. While mixing, she often crossfades to taste between the two.

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Nestled in the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains, Bella Donna’s studio is anchored around several Moog synthesizers, including eight Mother-32s, two DFAMs, two Subharmonicons, two Grandmothers, and one paraphonic Matriarch. In addition, on this recording, she used two vintage ARP 2600 synths, an ARP String Ensemble and several tape machines, which she uses for both multi-tracking and sound-on-sound-based audio segments.

“When I set up the SiX, the first thing I did was to listen to a ton of music through it,” she continues. “First, I would leave everything flat, and then I would turn on the EQ and start carving frequencies and learning its range of many colors. Then I patched it up and had a submix of my synths going into the two SuperAnalogue inputs, and effects and dynamics coming in to two other channels across the stereo bus.”

During mixdown, she came out of the DAW and back through the SiX, utilizing the SSL G Series Master Bus Compressor across the stereo track. “The G Series Bus Compressor rules, particularly on beat-driven sounds,” she says. “With the SSL SiX, the detail, tone and the headroom I achieved was really impressive.”

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