Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Pantha du Prince’s new album Conference of Trees imagines trees talking to one another. If you think that’s too frivolous a concept for a great album, you might find yourself eating crow during its first half hour, which imagines this fantastic form of communication with such imagination and inhuman, spine-tingling sound design you start to think that, yes, this is what trees might sound like if they could talk. The German producer born Henrik Weber is usually at home among crisp drums, firm basslines, and whimsical bells. One of his best albums, 2012’s Elements of Light, makes use of a three-ton carillon. His music usually feels more alpine than woodland, but here, he and collaborators have dressed up in pagan Where the Wild Things Are outfits and gone to town on handmade wooden instruments. Conference of Trees starts with the low thrum of a cello: earthy, wholesome, and mysterious. It’s reminiscent of Anne Guthrie’s underloved field-recording masterwork Codiaeum Variegatum, which likewise situated us within the secret world of plants and wedded the impassive sound of that palpably wooden instrument with the rus-tles and squawks of the local flora and fauna. The track is called “Approach in a Breeze,” it stretches to 11 minutes and, like Treebeard’s Ents, it reminds us not to be hasty. Then “Transparent Tickle Shining Glace” begins, and Weber and friends get to work, beating out patterns that jostle against the traditional four-on-the-floor pulse of techno we expect to hear. It’s like one of those DNA shots we see in so many special-effects flicks, taking us in-side the cellular structure of the plant itself and unraveling deeper mysteries than we can see under a microscope. On “When We Talk,” Weber begins singing in a low, indecipherable croak, sounding like, well, what a singing tree might sound like. His last album The Triad wasn’t sure what to do with its vocal features. This style of singing is far more effective, though the bowed instrument that scrapes across “Roots Making Family” sounds much more like the rustle and moan of a hoary old forest guardian. It’s the tracks towards the middle that keep Conference of Trees from being the new-age techno masterpiece it promises to be. “The Crown Territory,” “Supernova Space Time Drift” and “Silentum Larix” are Pantha du Prince by numbers. They would’ve been wel-come additions to The Triad or 2010’s Black Noise, but here they ir-reparably break the reverie, taking us out of the world of the trees and back into the world of minimal techno. Some consolation comes during the final track, “Lichtung,” which reprises both the cello and the mossy majesty of the first track. Maybe Weber’s thinking of Gas’s Zauberberg, the gold standard for forest-inspired techno albums, which also uses the same drone for its first and last tracks. But that album lives fully in mystery without mak-ing any of the concessions to normalcy Weber makes on tracks like “The Crown Territory.” A concept as outré and potentially goofy as the one that drives this album only works when the music fully commits to it. At its best, Conference of Trees might halfway convince you Pantha du Prince is privy to an incomprehensible form of communication between the growing things of this world. At its worst, it just feels like driving past a forest.