To step into a forest is to step into a majestic, timeless world teeming with life. Towering trees stand like ancient wardens of the land, forming a thick canopy that blocks out the light and chills the air. They can be wondrous, awe-inspiring places that conjure up images of fairytales, ghost stories, and daring adventures. While we know that trees are living, breathing organisms, recent scientific evidence suggests that they are much more social and cooperative than we realize. In fact, trees are adaptive organisms that form thriving communities with deep-seated bonds. Forests consist of social hubs of trees that cooperate with each other as much as the animals living amongst them.
Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that trees do communicate with each other in different ways. Firstly, they use scent to warn each other of attack or if they are in imminent danger. They also exchange information with the aid of the fungal networks that intermingle with their roots as well as subtly changing their appearance to transmit messages and data to their neighbors. So trees communicate via scent, visually and through electrical signals, but they don’t actually make a sound, right? Scientists believe that the roots of a tree respond and emit a signal at 220 hertz. Naturally, this raises the question of whether trees communicate using soundwaves. Research on this is in its infancy but it’s a notion that German producer Pantha Du Prince investigates on his ambitious follow up to 2016’s The Triad.
The droning, ambient opener, “Approach in a Breeze”, sets the scene perfectly, showcasing his contemplative approach to the project. Over ten, immersive minutes, Pantha Du Prince teases twinkling sounds from organic instruments over an elongated, bowed cello note. Each murmuring sound gracefully drifts and catches, mimicking tree branches being gently buffeted by the wind.
“Transparent Tickle Shining Grace” features the persistent tap of homemade woodblocks that evoke the idea of signals flowing through tree roots. These grow louder and more urgent as the track progresses as if the listener is eavesdropping on a whole forest of chattering trees. “When We Talk” features more electronic elements with a pulsing beat mixed with rattling percussion and Pantha Du Prince’s vocals half-submerged in the mix.
After a largely ambient opening, Pantha Du Prince begins to delve into the more club-ready elements of his sound during the middle of the album, starting with”Roots Making Family”. Here Pantha Du Prince crafts a percussive, danceable beat from the woodblocks that featured earlier. That continues with “The Crown Territory”, which becomes almost tribal with its rumbling beat, thick bassline, and clattering percussion. It’s something of an outlier on the album with a hummable keyboard hook that swirls around the subconscious long after it’s finished.
The shapeshifting, “Supernova Space Time Drift”, is equally as compelling. Opening with discordant clinking, it gradually morphs into a chugging deep house track fashioned from an astonishing number of layers. Pantha Du Prince brings the tempo down slightly on “Silentium Larix”. The title refers to the genus of trees more commonly known as larch or conifers. Although not explicitly stated, the track seems to be influenced by the idea that many artificial forests are made up of conifers that have had their roots damaged during plantation and are no longer able to communicate.
Lead single “Plus in Tacet” immediately transports the listener into the heart of the forest. As xylophone and gliding strings entwine with a throbbing beat, it evokes the awe-inspiring majesty of nature. Album closer, “Lichtung” (meaning glade or clearing in English), is a meditative, expansive piece. Pantha Du Prince uses the natural ebb and flow of the organic instrumentation to amplify the silence.
On Conference of Trees, Pantha Du Prince has taken the electronic elements of his sound and rooted them in nature. It’s a bold project that benefits from the creator’s focused vision as he invites the listener to piece together imagined conversations between trees. It encourages us to engage with our own experiences and memories as well as further our appreciation of forests and woodlands. It also serves as a stark warning that our forests need to be protected at all costs. When we destroy a forest, we are not felling individual trees; we are forcibly dismantling whole communities.