The Ingen Navn Trio’s debut album Elewha is released by BERTHOLD records on March 17th 2023. The line up: Inga Rothammel (saxophone and composer), Hendrik Eichler (drums) and Rocco Romano (guitar). The three met whilst studying at the ArtEZ Conservatory in Arnhem (NL). Rothammel is initiator and driving force behind the new album, whose songs represent a journey from the surface of the sea to the ocean bottom. The saxophonist grew up in Schwerin, in north east Germany, surrounded by water. “I would dive in head down,” she recalls “and had the feeling I was in a different world where everything sounded so different and mysterious.”
“When we made the album Inga always talked about her connection to water,“ says Eichler, also from Germany. “We found the deeper we went, the deeper was the meaning of the songs.” Romano, from Italy, talks of “a strong musical and personal connection within the trio, a family vibe,” that helped create the strong soundscape and dramatic power of the music.
Rothammel is an innovative composer, bristling with energy and ideas, who loves to experiment. “I once put a small speaker under a petri-dish filled with water which reacted to our music – and we had a camera filming it,” she recalls. “You see the water moving to the vibrations, to the structure, and if you think about it, our bodies are made up 70% of water which is so sensitive and reacts to everything.”
Elewha (also the title of one of the songs) is interspersed with tracks titled as minus numbers, representing the descent and depth in metres: -152m, -2630m, –5267m, –10916m. “They are in fact one improvisation divided into parts to present milestones and a guiding line through the album,” explains the composer. “Some titles are actual sea creatures. Cassiopea is an upside-down jelly fish and Vampyroteuthis is an octopus-like animal living in the dark zone.”
Abyss arose out of an improvisation in which the trio imagined a sea-bed. “It took us two days to record and was great fun,” says Rothammel, though the end result is disturbing and highly evocative.
The album is full of unusual instrumental techniques that take the listener from the melodic and smooth to the experimental and disconcerting. “Sometimes I used a drumstick in my saxophone to create nice sounds and in Kurn, a really short song, we talked over it and used FX so it seems as if water creatures are speaking. For the last tune I recorded my grandpa’s singing saw and put that in. And in the song Trieste we recorded one improvisation and then played over it afterwards so it sounds as if we’re six people.” Edwards was originally Romano’s idea, then composed by Rothammel. “That was the name of the captain of the Titanic,” he explains “also to do with the sea.”
“All in all,” says the composer “the different techniques and elements in the album describe the sea’s levels and zones, light and dark with their different temperatures, densities and portions of light coming through, and the various creatures living there – but everything is connected, as are our songs.”
And what of the origin of the album title? “When we first listened to the completed album the name Elewha just appeared,” says the composer. “It’s a word with no meaning and it seemed to fit perfectly, it was created in my mind.” And the name of the trio Ingen Navn? “I was searching for a name and didn’t want our music to be put it into a category or box. It’s Norwegian and means ‘no name’.”
Rothammel studied music therapy and has worked with children and young adults with borderline or depression. “It was heavy but really nice,” she recalls “because you see how people can really change. Working with children was amazing because they are so natural and I also work with people who have disabilities. They react so naturally, so pure, so honest. There is no mask, no wall. They tell you what they think That’s different to when you’re playing concerts in front of people. In music therapy you’re on the same level because you make music together, you connect to the other person directly. Though in concerts I’m still searching for the same kind of connection and you feel a public reaction.”
The trio actively searches out new audiences for its music and new methods of reaching people. “With a larger music collective we have done one-to-one concerts where young people are,” explains Rothammel. “We look into a person’s eyes and play for them, for ten minutes. It’s a really nice thing to do and people cry.”
“Even if listeners are not in the jazz bubble, they can enjoy the music,” says Romano and Eichler adds “it’s important to think about where we play, like festivals and clubs where normally there’s no jazz music and where we can reach younger audiences, and there we also play really energetic rock and funk.” Rothammel also hopes “that the trio can play in Stralsund in the Sea Biology Museum which has something to do with the sea of course.”
The saxophonist is planning a journey to Peru “to record sounds and to experience a new culture.” We can look forward to the Ingen Navn Trio, inspired by her travels, continuing to break new ground with their virtuosity and originality.