Live review

Caius Williams: ‘Thread’ and solo bass at Trinity Laban

Caius Williams ‘Thread’ and solo bass

(Trinity Laban. 26 April 2023. Review by Oliver Weindling)

The Thread Ensemble. Photo credit: Saurabh Shivakumar.

‘Thread’ is a single long piece composed by bassist Caius Williams, who is nearing completion of his course at Trinity Laban. We are seeing more and more of the phenomenon: young musicians who seem already to be creating a profile before they have emerged from London’s music colleges. Just a few examples from 2023: Saxophonist Emma Rawicz has a new album on ACT due out in August; Sultan Stevenson has a recently-released album on Whirlwind (also Vortex 13 May); Noah Stoneman has an album due out on Fresh Sound in May.

I have already seen Williams in various lineups, involving his contemporaries, such as Xhosa Cole and the aforementioned Stoneman, and his own group uses more experiences players, notably Tom Challenger. So it was with both curiosity and anticipation that I ventured to Trinity Laban in Greenwich to hear ‘Thread’ – for fourteen instrumentalists plus two vocalists – directed by Williams which, intriguingly, is without a bass.

The sonic vision and range of Williams’ writing are clear immediately. Free improvisation combines seamlessly with the composed elements. What comes through clearly from ‘Thread’ is the use of pairs of instruments and vocalists. And certainly the musicians had a great imagination in being able to deliver the ideas that would have been whirring around in Williams’s head! The two vocalists, Theo Laird and Rebecka Edlund, contributed texts, built on the innovative techniques of an older generation, such as Phil Minton and Maggie Nicols and were particularly vital in that they also wrote lyrics. These provided the starting point for a piece which had a series of double solos, be it two bass clarinets, or two guitars, linked by different written sounds, such as long wind chords. Gradually it builds into a groove under the chords, with deft use of the drums. Throughout, as in the solo piece, there were experiments in various soundscapes.

So, it is thrilling to see how this generation will develop further, given what can be already experienced. ‘Thread’ is certainly not an exception, from what we are seeing nowadays at venues such as the Vortex, Avalon and elsewhere in London. There will be a recording and video available soon.

Caius Williams. Photo credit: Adam Grant

As a foretaste he gave an intense solo bass set, using extended techniques, such as simultaneous plucking and bowing, as well as harmonics and strumming to create a multiphonic world.


Voices (and sung words): Theo Laird + Rebecka Edlund
Alto Saxophone/Flute: George Garford + Nat Philipps
Tenor/Soprano Saxophone: George Mooney + Dominik Kosztolánszki
Bass Clarinet/Clarinet: Alex Lyon + Simeon May
Trumpets: Christos Stylianides + Billy Rowlatt
Trombones: Olivia Hughes + Cameron Scott
Guitars: Tara Cunningham + Barney Anderson
Drums: Theo Guttenplan + Dom Hall

This performance was recorded on video by Saurabh Shivakumar and is due to be released

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