Looking Out, Looking on (2016, 41.11) ****/TTT½Julie, Dear
Circle of Candles
While Changing Hands, Turbulent Times
Skylines (2016, 49.21) ***½/T
672 Timberlake Drive
Signs & Rivers
Omnipresence (2018, 37.28) ***½/TT½The Hollow of Clearwell Castle
End of the Line
The Astral Odyssey of Stillman
The Haunting of October Dreams (2018, 41.16) ***½/TT½Crypt of Nosferatu
Arrival at Espionage
Live (2018, 43.58) ****/T½Nightfall
Endless Roads (2019, 133.24) ***½/TT½Afternoons
When Friends Fall Out
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Pt. I
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Pt. II
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Pt. III
Mountain Lake Wilderness
Circulus (2019, 53.25) ***½/TKohouték
Kanawha Falls, West Virginia
The World She Wanted (2019, 44.38) ***½/½Take Me in the Morning
Two Spirit, One Life
Make Me Your Wife
The World She Wanted
Lisa Bella Donna (formally Adam "Smitty" Smith) was psychonauts Eye's keyboard player/synthesist. Her first solo album, 2016's Looking Out, Looking on, is an eclectic, keyboard-based release, stretching far outside the realms of 'typical' electronic music to incorporate jazz (spot the full-on jazz piano on While Changing Hands, Turbulent Times and the jazzy Rhodes work on Entrance, Dusk), psych and, on lengthy closer Mountains, a form of ambient avant-psychedelia, including percussion and an upright bass solo. Lisa sticks her M400 all over the album, which opens with a solo Mellotron flute piece, Julie, Dear, key-click and all, with strings on Circle of Candles, While Changing Hands, Turbulent Times and Trust/Phantoms, plus flutes and strings on Love, 1967. The same year's Skylines is far more of a jazz album, several tracks falling into the 'laid-back instrumental jazz with ARP synth solos' style that reminds me of the more relaxed end of the '70s fusionists. Very little Mellotron, this time round, with naught but cellos and strings on the title track.
Lisa released no fewer than three albums in 2018, the first being Omnipresence, comprising four short(er), keyboard-led pieces on her patented cusp-between-prog-and-fusion style (including a superb fusion guitar solo on Touch) and a 'side-long' electronic work, The Astral Odyssey Of Stillman. Mellotron on two tracks, with a string line on brief opener The Hollow Of Clearwell Castle, then nothing until a wobbly, upfront strings part a few minutes into and then throughout The Astral Odyssey Of Stillman, plus a flute solo, very much the album's Mellotronic tour de force. The Haunting of October Dreams largely consists of soundtrack-esque material, typified by brief, splendidly creepy opener Crypt Of Nosferatu and the lengthy Goodbye Emmanuelle, beautiful closer Autumn Epilogue (strangely spelled 'Epilouge' on her Bandcamp page) being the one obviously atypical piece. Mellotron all over the place, much of it probably sampled, with strings on Crypt Of Nosferatu and cellos and strings on Goodbye Emmanuelle, Arrival At Espionage and closer Autumn Epilogue, with sampled brass (and others?) elsewhere. The self-explanatory Live compiles recordings from (in her own words) 'solo shows, clinics & workshops and live TV/video performances', possibly at its best on twenty-minute closer Fjørds, also the recipient of the album's only Mellotron work (see sleeve pic above), with simultaneous strings and cellos (plus flutes), at least one of which, by default, has to be sampled; the radical strings pitchbend around the eight-minute mark and the sonic manipulation at the end of the piece suggests that they're fake.
2018's two-hours-plus Endless Roads is a compilation of Lisa's soundtrack work, although her virtual sleevenotes are vague on the subject of recording dates. She covers a variety of feels over its eight tracks, from opener Afternoons' percussive explorations through the three parts of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari's dark, '20s-inspired soundscapes to closer Appalachian Cloudpath's gentle Rhodes murmurings. Mellotron on every track, both real and sampled, sometimes more obviously than other times, with cellos on Afternoons, string section and regular strings all over the title track and wobbly strings under When Friends Fall Out's acoustic guitar. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari Pt. I opens with samples of the MkII 'moving strings', doomy cellos appearing later on, Pt. II has sampled choirs and real (?) strings, strings, choirs and (sampled?) brass on Pt. III, along with a 'moving strings' repeat, strings on Mountain Lake Wilderness and drifting choirs on Appalachian Cloudpath. Personal favourites? The whole of Das Kabinet and Appalachian Cloudpath.
Since I rather doubt that Lisa's heard of British folk/psych legends Circulus, I'd imagine her album of the same name is named for the Latin term meaning something like 'a social gathering' (thank you, Wikipedia). One short and two long tracks of ambient synthesis, with what I take to be sampled Mellotron all round, leaving the one genuine M400 moment as the two minutes or so of very real, choppy strings that open Kanawha Falls, West Virginia. The World She Wanted takes a very different approach, being what appears to be a concept album based around acoustic guitar pieces, possibly at its best on twenty-three-minute opener Take Me In The Morning, which spends over half its length as a (12-string?) guitar duet. The only Mellotron on the album is a brief flute part on its shortest track, Two Spirit, One Life, making it slightly inessential on that front.
2019's Destinations is, in many ways, a 'typical' EM release, except for the inconvenient truth that Lisa uses the usual elements to take the genre elsewhere. Unfortunately, she does it in such an indefinable manner, that I have to give you the journalistically-unsatisfactory suggestion to listen for yourself; thankfully, due to the wonders of Bandcamp, you can do exactly that. Reviewer fail. Samplotron this time and not much of it, with drifting strings on opener Beyond The Eleventh Dream and a handful of flute chords on Mystery Rituals. The live Night Shift consists of two 'side-long' pieces, the (relatively) energetic Flight Over Lyseførd and the more relaxed October Gathering. The album opens with samplotron vibes, choirs and unfeasibly-lengthy strings following, angular chordal strings re-entering the fray after ten or so minutes and a beautiful strings/flutes duet towards the end, although nothing on the second piece.