Zs is a Brooklyn, New York based experimental/avant-garde band.
Zs was founded in 2000 by tenor saxophonist and composer Sam Hillmer. Since the band’s inception ZS has incarnated as everything from a sextet to a duo, most recently featuring Ben Greenberg (electric guitar), Tony Lowe (electric guitar), and Ian Antonio (drum set), in addition to Hillmer’s signature sax ranting. While Zs' music has been variously categorized as no-wave, noise, post-minimalist, drone, and psych, it is primarily concerned with making music that challenges the physical and mental limitations of both performer and listener. The band has been heralded by New York Times as "one of the strongest avant-garde bands in New York."
In 2003, the group (as Alex Hoskins, Brad Wentworth, Charlie Looker, Matthew Hough, Alex Mincek and Sam Hillmer) released Untitled, a two-track written by Looker released on Ricecontrol Records. In July of the same year, the band released Zs, recorded at Westbeth Studios, in New York City, consisting of 5 tracks primarily written by Alex Mincek and Sam Hillmer, the two saxophonists. In November of that year, the EP Karate Bump was recorded in Brooklyn. It was later released by Planaria Recordings in March 2005.
Magnet, a single-track CD written by Matthew Hough, was released in December 2005, followed by Buck, released on cassette by Folding Cassettes in 2006 and on CD by Gilgongo Records in 2007. The LP Arms was also released in 2007. Interestingly, Zs were thrown into the spotlight on a November 2007 broadcast of the Howard Stern show, in which Stern played tracks from Arms and subsequently started a discussion on avant-garde music, and an impromptu exploration of a list of theoretical questions about what constitutes "music" and why we listen to it. In a particularly memorable moment, while listening to the opening notes of "Woodworking", Stern stated, "it's mood music... if you're in a mental home," later asking "do they write this stuff down? Can this be repeated? How do you tell when something's 'good'?" By the end, Stern and his cast had decided to form their own faux-avant-garde ensemble, and talked about trying to open for Zs' upcoming Knitting Factory performance. B Is For Burning, a track from Arms, was released as a 7" live recording in two parts in February 2008 by Rock Is Hell records.
In August 2008, Zs and Child Abuse released a split album on Zum records, the A side of which was the Zs track In My Dream I Shot A Monk. The cover painting was "Incident at the barbecue" by John Dwyer. The same year, The Hard EP was released by Three One G, and received critical acclaim, with Chris Sabbath of the San Francisco Bay Guardian writing "Zs excels with high marks across the board... earch member vents ballistic impulses into one giant movement of astounding precision. Throughout its 15-minute sprawl, [Zs] are so accurate in their delivery that you start to question the laws of memory and begin to wonder if some telepathic device factors into the outfit's formula..."
In April 2009, a remix album was released entitled Zs Remixed. The album contains two tracks remixed by Excepter's Nathan Corbin (Zebrablood), each followed by their original. The remixed songs are "Except When You Don't Because Sometimes You Won't" (which originally appeared on Arms) and "Bump" (which originally appeared on Karate Bump EP).
On July 7, 2009 ZS released its first record for the label The Social Registry. ZS' first record without longtime member Charlie Looker (who had left to build his band Extra Life) the band explored the possibilities of the studio as compositional tool for the first time. While none of the music on this record was ever performed live, the band did do several short tours of the East Coast and Canada.
In May 2009, Zs played at the prestigious Moers Festival, an international jazz festival in Moers, Germany. In December of the Same year ZS played in Madrid and Barcelona as part of the famed Prima Vera festival. In early 2010 ZS made its first excursion through the southern states of the US culminating in 10 performances at Austin's South By Southwest Festival.
On May 11, 2010 ZS released their 2nd full length record New Slaves, also on the Social Registry. The record was celebrated by the New York Times , Pitchfork , and the Village Voice , among others. In support of the bands longest and most ambitious full length record ZS embarked on its first proper European tour. During their summer 2010 European tour the band performed in 11 countries including a now legendary performance at Poland's OFF festival where an audience member was removed from the performance by paramedics due to a sort of blissful stupor brought on by the music???!!! "The festival is over for me" the inebriated fan was quoted as saying on the way out.
In recent times the band has made and announced the record New Slaves Pt. II - ESSENCE IMPLOSION! Essentially a remixes record with an original A side on the vinyl version. In celebration of the forthcoming record, due out on January 25 of 2011, the band has formed a special remixes related set featuring tenor saxophonist Sam Hillmer and KXLU/WFMU DJ Brandon Perry (aka Marty Mcsorely) along with projectionist Laura Paris (who first made her appearance with the band during their European tour). The remix ensemble will be touring the west coast in November 2010.
As ZS enter their 2nd decade of operation the band is becoming a bit of an institution. ZS has generated a small community of specialists, each member united by the shared property of having played in ZS. In the days to come, ZS fans will see these past and present members in combination and recombination. The current roster includes Sam Hillmer, Ben Greenberg, Charlie Looker, Tony Lowe, Amnon Freidlin, Ian Antonio, Brand Perry, and Laura Paris.
The trio responsible for the records the Hard EP, Music of the Modern White, and New Slaves will be performing in Tokyo Japan on New Year's Eve 2010/11. To celebrate ZS first trip to Japan the Japanese Label, Art book publisher, and Camera company Powershovel is releaseing a two CD set of ZS music including the entirety of Music of the Modern White, New Slaves, New Slaves Pt. II - ESSENCE IMPLOSION! and two bonus tracks. Also accompanying the CD set is a booklet of photographs taken by the members of ZS on cameras provided them by Powershovel.
- Untitled (2003)
- Zs (2003)
- Karate Bump EP (2005)
- Magnet (2005)
- Buck (2006)
- Arms (2007)
- B Is For Burning 7" (2008)
- Child Abuse split (2008)
- The Hard EP (2008)
- Zs Remixed (2009)
- Music of the Modern White (2009)
- New Slaves (2010)
- New Slaves Pt. II: Essence Implosion! (2011)
- Score: The Complete Sextet Works: 2002-7 (2012)
- Grain (2013)
- Wolf, Mike. Time Out New York issue 633: November 15–21, 2007.