Above our heads the sky splits open

Artist: Zaum

Date of Release: 01/11/2004

Catalogue no: 1277

Label: SLAM

Price: £8.99

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Track Listing









“We make no apology for awarding “Above our Heads … “ our highest accolade. At the time of release it seemed like a remarkable disc. With growing hindsight it seems to have repositioned our listening to British improvised music.” Brian Morton. Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD

IMPORTANT: This is the genuine original SLAM CD, not the Amazon copy.

track titles:
called to rise 9.25
the cherry dance 3.00
trans 5.08
straw foot 5.47
natchez 1.15
(is that) all you can see 5.13
trouble at house-for-one 3.44
secular drift 3.08
white pass ink black moon 19.38

steve harris drums
cathy stevens six string ‘violectra’, viola
geoff hearn tenor, soprano saxophones
karen wimhurst clarinet, bass clarinet
udo dzierzanowski guitar
matthew olczak guitar
adrian newton live and found samples

improvisations recorded live in performance at the study gallery, poole, 5/6 march 2004




01/11/2004 Brian Morton

The Wire
Culled from more than four hours of spontaneous music recorded live in Poole, this is masterly stuff from the Pinski Zoo drummer and Elvin Jones acolyte who’s shaped Zaum into one of Britain’s most remarkable improvising ensembles. Cathy Steven’s viola and violectra were augmented for the evening by four more low strings, while Adrian Newton added live and found samples, but it’s Geoff Hearn’s saxophones, Karen Wimhurst’s clarinets and the clangorous guitars of Udo Dzierzanowski and Matthew Olczak that give the group its power. The opening and closing tracks, “Called To Rise” and “White Pass Ink Black Moon”, are as good as anything you’ll hear this year.


01/11/2004 Barry Witherden

I guess Harris is best known as the bloke who has sat at the back in Pinski Zoo since the late 80s, although he has always been involved in various other improvising projects. Zaum, formed in 2002 and still developing, is one of the most impressive of these, and shows a very different aspect of his talents. The band’s first album, the confusingly-titled Zaum, was well received, and Above Our Heads deserves at least as much acclaim. This time Zaum is augmented by a second guitar (Olczak), the Chrome Strings, plus live and found samples under the control of Newton. The textures are still way, way lighter and more spacious than the dense, harmolodic, power-funk environment of PZ, although very occasionally there is an echo of that venerable outfit, as when Hearn’s tenor erupts on “Trans” into fragments of the kind of blisteringly emotional Ayleresque tough-love song that is central to Kopinski’s work. With those lighter textures Harris can demonstrate a more nimble and crisp drumming style, and throughout he reveals considerable sensitivity to colour, detail and atmosphere.
A few random highlights: the eerie ambience, the keening sax lines and the drum patterns of “Called To Rise” remind me of John Tchicai’s classic first album with Cadentia Nova Danica; the stunning “Straw Foot” is a good test of whether you’d like this album, with its stalking lower register guitar, explosions of percussion and, as washes of electronics well up, sinister scribblings by Hearn on soprano and Wimhurst on bass clarinet moving in and out of the shadowy margins; the skewed pastorality of “All You Can See”.
Above Our Heads was selected from over four hours of improvisations recorded at the Study Gallery, Poole over the weekend of 3-6 March. A second album may be possible, and would certainly be welcomed by me. Harris says: “Each performance starts with a clean sheet. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really is like a journey that we want to take with each other and the audience. And we’re all driving the bus!” I’d recommend buying a rover ticket. The scenery is marvellous.


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