New York-based double trio Zs, featuring two drummers (Alex Hoskins and Brad
Wentworth), two guitarists (Charlie Looker and Matt Hough)
and two saxophonists (Alex Mincek and Sam Hillmer), delivered surrealistic
jazz-rock on the mini-album Zs (Troubleman, 2003).
The stuttering childish Retrace A Walk, mimicking a melody that never
coalesces, represents their harmonic low-end, whereas the chatter-box of
Olympics evokes Canterbury-style prog-rock.
The real treats are
Slalom, that slowly builds to a climax through a methodic minimalist repetition of patterns by each instrument, each playing a different pattern;
and the 16-minute Mimesis, that dispenses with the fractured interplay
and delves into a slow, stealthy, pensive and almost sleepy form of polyphony.
The EP Karate Bump (Planaria, 2005) added the virtuoso horn concerto
Karate and the subdued post-rock meditaiton of Bump.
Buck (2006) reenacted a few pieces of the old repertory and previewed
Arms (2007) contains another piece based on intricate
minimalist repetition, B Is For Burning,
first piece with vocals, Nobody Wants To Be Had, in which
their frantic singsong interacts with a tidal wave of collective pounding.
The music seems to be more jovial than high-brow.
A funny game of contrast and imitation, Balk, is the introduction to
the eleven-minute I Can't Concentrate, that toys with clownish and
The simple Except When You Don't Because Sometimes You Won't is
a manic, tribal case of babbling and chirping.
But then the album ends with the nine-minute Z Is For Zone, whose
stream of ringing bells and praying vocals evokes a spiritual trip
through an enchanted forest.
The EP Hard (2008), containing the 15-minute Hard, started a mutation towards a less demanding kind
of music. Paired down to a trio (Hillmer on sax, Greenberg on guitar, Ian Antonio on drums), Zs embarked in the
The EP Music of the Modern White (2009) contains a two-part suite.
The first part juxtaposes spastic metallic percussion against
cacophonous howling saxophone and fibrillating space guitar until it
decays into a murky wind. In the second part a hysterical saxophone fights
against an electronic drone before a solo of (what appears to be)
hand clapping, ending with feral guitar sound over frantic percussion
and droning om-like saxophone.
Hillmer was the only constant throughout the various metamorphoses of the band,
and the only surviving member on
New Slaves (Social Registry, 2010), a parade of sophisticated
Concert Black is a ticking merry-go-round that whirls around itself
like a Moebius loop;
the percussive ballet Acres Of Skin sounds like
Zev performing a Brazilian batucada;
Gentleman Amateur is just one thick buzzing drone;
the abstract watercolor Don't Touch Me is almost musique concrete;
and Masonry delves into crystal-calm ambient music.
The 20-minute New Slaves returns to the minimalist repetition of their
early days, but injecting into it
grotesque and catastrophic overtones that lead to a hyper-tense finale.
A two-movement 23-minute suite closes the album:
Black Crown Ceremony I - Diamond Terrifier, a subdued piece of
improvised saxophone mumbling over whispered drones; and
Black Crown Ceremony II - Six Realms, in which the drones move
to the foreground and become a shapeless slowly-moving mass with ghost-like
features (possibly their all-time peak of pathos).
New Slaves II - Essence Implosion (Social Registry, 2011) is a remix
Zs Score - The Complete Sextet Works 2002-2007
collects 40 pieces.
Sam Hillmer also launched Diamond Terrifier that debuted with the sax solo Kill The Self That Wants To Kill Yourself.
Grain EP (Nothern Spy, 2013) and
XE (Northern Spy, 2015)
featured a new Zs lineup:
Hillmer, Greg Fox and Patrick Higgins.
Zs' guitarists Charlie Looker and
drummer Mike Pride and
formed the duo Period that released
1 (Funhole) and
2 (Public Eyesore, 2014), also featuring Sam Hillmer (tenor sax),
laptop musician Chuck Bettis and alto saxophonist
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