Boomkat Product Review:
New Slaves is the latest full-length from New York avant-rock heavyweights Zs, who pack well over an hour's worth of brilliantly produced instrumental clatter into this disc. You might view the album as being of two halves: the first made up of shorter, more concentrated works, the second featuring more extended, freeform recordings. 'Concert Black' is a great intro, rifling through lively guitar natural harmonics and mustering up the kind of mangled string sampling you'd associate with early Fenn O'Berg. 'Acres Of Skin' has a Swans-like brooding edge to it, defined by a rubbery drum sound that feels more like GBH than percussion. 'Gentleman Amateur' really starts to pulverise the ear, immersing your head in a torrent of all-but undiscernable granular noise, drone and something vaguely beat-like lurking far beneath. By comparison 'Don't Touch Me' is like a slightly frisky spiritual jazz record, hammering through African-styled rhythmic complexities whilst caking on the overdrive. Offering some sort of respite, 'Masonry' delves into soundscapey territory with flurries of what sounds like sub-aqua marimba filtered and reverbed to the point of obscurity. From here the album shifts into more "leisurely" durations showing signs of a heavy free-jazz influence that shines through just as strongly as the noise-rock proclivities. The twenty-minute title-track soars into ever more extreme areas under the helm of sax man Sam Hillmer, and the group ruthlessly spout their way through rhythmically fractured prog. The final two pieces aren't quite so brutal on the ear but are no less radical in their own way: 'Black Crown Ceremony' (parts one and two) abandons beats in favour of more esoteric soundscape forays, coming to a conclusion with a collage of voices, location recordings, chimes and wandering horns. Great stuff, though not for the faint of heart.