Conference of Trees

Pantha du Prince

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Conference of Trees Review

by Fred Thomas

Though known for a steady, minimal approach, German producer Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince, turned in his most full-bodied work with 2016's lush album The Triad. Weber's twinkling, bell-tone-heavy electronics were in excellent form on the album, but they were joined by larger-than-usual arrangements that included icy vocals, noisy textures, and an uncharacteristically thick production. With sixth album Conference of Trees, Pantha du Prince takes another surprising left turn, transmuting the layered sound of the last album into texturally rich stacks of organic and electronic tones. This change is clear from the first strains of opening track "Approach in a Breeze." The nearly 11-minute-long song is made up of an ambient drone that slowly grows to include strings, fluttering piano tines, and acoustic bell sounds. A lengthy ambient introduction isn't uncommon, but this slow-moving energy spills into the next two tracks as quiet, wordless vocals, xylophone, and homemade wood blocks enter the arrangements as well. A programmed beat doesn't even appear until four tracks in with the mellow rhythm and low vocals of "When We Talk." Even with the beat adding form, the song still moves like a hypnotic drone, melting into more abstract ambiance by the end of the song. While Pantha du Prince never took a conventional route to pop, the meandering live percussion and clouds of synth are abstract even for him. Only by the album's midway point on "The Crown Territory" do the bass-heavy melodic sensibilities Weber is known for start coming into focus. The second half of Conference of Trees opens up into more club-ready sounds, but it maintains the protracted, steady flow of the earthy first half. Tracks like "Silentium Larix" and "Pius in Tacet" bring together melancholic string parts and clattering bell sounds with Weber's deep electronic programming for some of the album's best moments. It's new territory for a producer known for his willingness to experiment, and finds Weber's unique voice growing as he plays with new instruments, tones, and ideas.

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