Between the spheres of free improvisation, jazz, trap, and musique concrète, lies Non-Confined Space. The name of this Taipei-based duo – saxophone polyglot Minyen Hsieh and audiovisual electronica experimentalist Ge-Chun Cheng (aka Sonic Deadhorse) – aptly describes their approach to exploring the fertile space they find themselves in. Drawing inspiration from their differing musical approaches and worlds, plus energy from the lively Taiwanese music scene, Non-Confined Space is a bold and future-facing hybrid. Cheng deploys piles of samples alongside Hsieh's versatile saxophone, resculpting the results into a sublime and boldly experimental debut album of beats and processed improvisations unlike anything you've heard before.
Taking its title from a philosophical textbook about free-jazz, Flow, Gesture, and Spaces is a revelatory introduction to the duo, mixing the utterly free improvisations of their live shows (exemplified with spontaneous straight-to-tape takes on two of the album's ten tracks) with an approach to studio composition inspired by the philosophy of improvisation. Basic outlines – often borrowing chord movements from the likes of Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, or pulling beats from Cheng's huge library – would be cut loose in studio sessions, later augmented by psychedelic post-production. Utilizing methodology from the eponymous book, Flow, Gesture, and Spaces is nonetheless based on "simple elements" as the duo put it, "rhythm, intervals, timbre, and energy."
As a pairing, Non-Confined Space seem to come from polar opposite ends of the spectrum, musically. Performing professionally since the age of 19, Minyen Hsieh first picked up the saxophone back in high school, going on to study with local jazz musicians, and eventually studying the instrument at Koninklijk Conservatorium in Brussels. He's since made a vast array of music, from traditional swing to the loosened bop of his debut solo album Firry Path, and collaborations with pianist Shih-Yang Lee and legendary Japanese free-drummer Sabu Toyozumi. Non-Confined Space is Hsieh's first deep foray into the art of electronic processing.
Ge-Chun Cheng's primary solo project since 2007 has been Sonic Deadhorse. A sample-hungry outfit blending the "indulgence of the 70s, melancholy of the 80s, nihilism of the 90s, and isolation of the new century", the project has produced a wide-range of sounds from post-Flying Lotus fusion beats to wild live performances of a club-influenced mix of post-rock, dubstep, and chiptune (documented on a 2016 live set for Boiler Room). Working as something of a one-man band has left autodidact Cheng well prepared to not only match the classically trained Hsieh, but to push his partner into wild new directions. "I can always get organic feedback and responses from Minyen," explains Cheng. "It makes me want to put more elements and processing into the music, and to change style more often."
Since first meeting at a jam session in Taipei City, Non-Confined Spaces have evolved into an improv outfit for the 21st century, as indebted to Aphex Twin and Squarepusher as they are to Archie Shepp and Sun Ra. The road to Flow, Gesture, and Spaces has seen the duo play for dance performances, visual exhibitions, and even live-painting. Their own live shows also include various interactive and audiovisual elements, consistently focusing in on those three core elements checked in the album's title. Non-Confined Spaces is a project far from tied down, flirting with bass-heavy tropicalia on 'Serotonin Cell', psychedelic post-Madlib hip-hop on 'Melodic Gesture', and noisy electrified free jazz on 'Entropy'. The latter is one of two live takes featuring drummer Weichung Lin and keyboardist YuYing Hsu – allies from the Taiwan scene – capturing the explosive spontaneity and uncannily wonky sounds of this unique duo reconstructing samples live on the spot. Flow, Gesture, and Spaces is a true journey into the heart of the unknown.
Flow, Gesture, and Spaces:
01. Quantum Entanglement
02. Non-Confined Space
03. Serotonin Cell
04. Into the Flow
06. Triarchic Opposition
07. Melodic Gesture
08. Causal Loop
10. The Innards of Time