Mixer Jaëxx, U.S. Copyright Office, 2017
De Soto is based on the De Soto National Memorial park located in Bradenton, Florida (not to be confused with Fort De Soto, which is located in Clearwater, Florida, 40 minutes from Bradenton). The De Soto park is based on the explorer Hernando de Soto when his expedition became the first Europeans to land in the Tampa Bay Area.
The park itself is beautiful and picturesque with monuments and historical recreations dedicated to both the Spanish explorers and the Native Americans of Bradenton. The small area features beach-like coastlines, raised wooden walkways over mangrove swamps and trails. People use the De Soto park for cookouts, to take their boats to or just explore the history of the area. I spent many summers in De Soto with my family growing up and still visit the park at least once a year.
For the song De Soto, instead of focusing on a night-vibe, I instead focused on a trippy daytime experience of allowing your mind to wonder back in time to the area and its cultural significance.
One of the most interesting elements of the song are the birds. I went into the De Soto park, walked into some of the trails and recorded the sounds of birds in the area. In order to create a rhythmic, melodic sound for the birds, I setup two PEQ-2 equalizers, a Synchronous, a microMix 6 channel line mixer and a Scream 4 distortion unit. I used the PEQ-2’s to remove some unwanted sounds and used the Synchronous to create a time and pattern-based modulation of delay, reverb and distortion (via the Scream 4).
What this achieved was a complex, evolving sound that was not in sync. This meant the sound effects on the birds would be both predictable yet different sounding throughout the entire song.
The pad that comes in at the start of the song and fades out towards the end was created by recording a French keys-sounding piano, rendering out the audio and flipping it in reverse. I then put a dual band flanger and phaser on it. This gives it an evolving, slight filter-sweeping sound. To add even more to the “aliveness” of it, I loaded my custom device, the MJ 4 Band Auto-Panner (Squared). This allows me to automatically pan certain bands (frequencies) of audio in real time, automatically. The “Squared” part means, instead of the pan fading from left to right, it instantly jumps to left or right. So I set the low-mid and hi sections of the audio to jump between the stereo field while the low and mid-hi bands stay dead center. This helps the audio stay fresh and ever-changing throughout the song.
Late in the development of the song, I decided to add some Spanish guitar and piccolo flutes to give the song a cultural vibe and to make it feel even more special once you find out what it’s based on.
The bass in De Soto is different; it’s one of the most grungy basses of Bradenton Ambient, but it works out because a lot of De Soto is nice and peaceful. There was a lot of tragedy involving the deaths and enslavement of the Native Americans of the area, so I felt giving this song a spacey, peaceful tone broken up at times by hardness captures the emotion I was goin’ for.
What gives the bass its rawness is slight randomness; I setup a Synchronous to control a Pulveriser distortion unit. The “wet / dry” knob is controlled by the Synchronous to bounce from dry to wet at times and quickly fall back to dry. This gives the rawness of the bass an unbridled-power kinda’ feeling to it. I drew out the curves of the Synchronous, so there is a pattern to the behavior... but because I purposely let the curve’s timing fall out of sync, you can’t predict how the bass reacts in the song.
De Soto was a really enjoyable song to create. During its creation, it really allowed me to reflect back on moments in my life and learn more about the culture of this area.