Premiere: Download “Acres of Skin,” the Glittering, Skronking New Single From Brooklyn’s Zs


Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.

Brooklyn’s Zs have always walked a jagged line between 21st Century composers and bratty art-punks; their voluminous, decade-strong output evokes everything from Schoenberg’s jagged beep-boops to Glass’s hypnotic minimalism to the headbanging abandon of crusty loft-party noiseniks. Despite having armloads of singles, EPs, and live albums, New Slaves (due May 11 on the Social Registry) is only their second proper record, and it moves the band fearlessly into more rhythmic, noisy, and downright terrifying waters. Anyone who’s seen Zs recently knows they have abandoned their infamous music stands and sheet music. Instead, the band has transformed itself into a battering ram of brackish sound and befuddling rhythms–think of Steve Reich phasing experiments produced into a blackened soup by the Boredoms and you’re getting close; think Black Dice performed by Sun Ra and you’re getting closer. “Acres Of Skin” showcases the band’s gnarly new feel, with saxophonist Sam Hillmer squonking out inhuman squeals, dual guitarists Annon Friedlin and Ben Greenberg (full disclosure, an old pal) creating a detuned, rhythmic ooze, and drummer Ian Antonio earnestly clapping and pounding along.


Q&A With Zs tenor saxophonist Sam Hillmer

What is the title “Acres Of Skin” about?

“Acres of skin” is a quote from the dermatologist Dr. Robert M. Kligman who conducted tests on prisoners in the Holmesburg prison in Pennsylvania. He was conducting experiments, which proved to be quite dangerous and permanently detrimental to his subjects. Later, when describing the environment he’d chosen for these experiments, he said something to the effect of “I walked into the prison and all I saw were acres of skin.”

What inspired this song musically?

We had done another song that feature clapped rhythms. Ben had an odd, kind of twisted riff that involved some detuned strings, and I suggested that it be a sort of follow up to our first clapping joint. After that, we just tried to let the material play itself out naturally. Then there was some work in the studio to make it pop.

What do clapping rhythms mean to you?

Well, clapping is very raw, uneffected, material, and it also kind of has this place in pop music. So it’s a rich sound in that it brings up a lot. I think Zs like things that just are what they are. Like, it’s just totally transparent, so that brings up other thought processes because you’re not trying to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes.

What is your favorite song with clapping on it?

Probably some Moroccan or Flamenco music or something. Maybe some music from Ethiopia. There are a group of people from Ethiopia called the Ari. Their music has a lot of clapping in it. It’s pretty dope. There’s a record on Ocora called Ari Polyphonies, it’s worth checking out.

This is your noisiest and most hypnotic record yet, what inspired you guys to forge into that direction?

We make a record, listen to it a lot, decide what we really like about it, and then do a record of just that. If you look at Arms, and the Hard EP, and then Music Of The Modern White, we’re shedding everything ornamental as we go along. It’s just what we like, and what feels natural, and relevant.

When did you get rid of the sheet music–and why?

Doing music on the DIY scene in America rendered doing music with sheet music kind of confrontational. We’d get to a spot and set up, and people would be like “Play some jazz!” or “Sheet music rules!” And this is documented on our live record, Buck. After a while, people knew us, and knew that we rolled with sheet music. Then we became the band with sheet music, which seemed boring. We’ve always been interested in throwing disparate entities together, and then observing their behavior, so we decided to become the band that used to play with sheet music.

What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played in NYC?

Mine is either the last night we played with Charlie Looker at Issue Project Room, with Excepter and we just really killed; or a really old one where we played the Troubleman CMJ showcase with Gang Gang Dance, Orthrelm, White Magik, Touch Down, and Mumps Measels Rubella. Virtually everyone in all of those bands are old friends from DC, and we all played on the same stage. It was a special night. ODB played the after party upstairs, and it was his last show ever!

Whats your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?

My favorite spot is Montas Diner on Myrtle just north of Wyckoff. We call it “The Elevated.” It rules!

Zs will play their record release show with on May 11 at the Knitting Factory with Excepter, Mick Barr and Silk Flowers.