…Behind the – Behind the Wall – Under the Tree…or right here, after a long scroll to the bottom of this post you might find my favorite release by Swiss-born Andreas Vollenweider. Now more widely known his placid work backing up Carly Simon or his milquetoast New Age, “fantasy” music, there was a time when what Andreas was doing was decidedly more special and unique. …Behind the Gardens – Behind the Wall – Under the Tree… is proof positive of that. Surprisingly underappreciated, it was his early work that ties many ideas (ambient, mediterranean, neoclassical, and minimal) in ways that still sound fresh to open ears. This release being the most fully-formed, sidelines the cheese that would creep up in future releases, for far more inviting and surprisingly complex arrangements that really get to a sound: the gorgeous electroacoustic harp tone, in full flight, that he’d be known for.
A talented multi-instrumentalist from an early age, it wasn’t until he actually picked an instrument to focus on – in this case, the upright harp – that the doors of “idea” swung open. It was that instrument that allowed him to think and play as both percussionist and melodic pull. When he was able to connect it and amplify it with other sonic sources, that’s when his imagination really fired up. That’s when this release reached its timelessness.
The liner notes to …Behind the – Behind the Wall – Under the Tree… present Andreas as near, one man band, who took the reins of nearly every instrument you hear there – be it sax, assorted woodwind, acoustic or electric guitar, Prophet 5 and Oberheim OBXa synthesizer – and let it be known that at the forefront of it all was still going to be his electroacoustic harp. Earlier session and live work showed his roots in jazz music and progressive circles but this was different.
On …Behind the – Behind the Wall – Under the Tree… his harp tries its hand on various, fragmented sources of inspiration – Breton/Gaelic, Mediterranean, Japanese, Arabic, and African – while willingly dialing down anything that could place them in there, or anywhere distinctly, so as to have each thought come across as inspired and not as imitation. As hinted by the album’s title, those directions give you part of the signals on how cut off Andreas felt or placed himself to come up with this release.
Recorded in the cellars of Sinus Studios in Bern, Switzerland, just an hours drive from his native Zurich, visitors literally had to go through a gauntlet to find him toiling away at what would be this, his visionary music. Each generation deserves it’s Tubular Bells and this is as close as we got to one, in that special era when all these ideas of ambient, environmental music, New Age, and minimalism were still trying to figure themselves out. There’s a meaningful turn in “Pyramid – in the Wood – in the Bright Light” where he gets to it, but I’ll leave you that to hear for yourself. You know what they say: one man’s cheese, is another’s emmental…
… or as Andreas puts it perfectly himself…
“This album marked the start of our adventure, the entry into this very different world of sound. The title is like giving someone directions: “You will find us behind The Garden, behind The Wall, under The Tree…” Recording this album we worked completely cut off from the world, in the cellars of the Sinus Studios in the historical part of the city of Berne; they are more than 300 years old. In the shelter of this creative “womb”, it was easy to lose track of time and space.”