Selektiv hogst

Selektiv hogst

Catalog id: SOFA530

Released: May, 2010

Tetuzi Akiyama – guitar
Toshimaru Nakamura – no-input mixing board
Espen Reinertsen – saxophone & flute
Eivind Lønning – trumpet
Martin Taxt – tuba

  • Liner notes by Jenny Hval

Before I start listening to Selektiv hogst, I visit my parents in the south of Norway. They have experienced heavy snowfall this winter, and even after a week of warm weather, the snow is still covering everything – the piles are just slowly shrinking. I don’t really understand until my mother shows me a picture of their house from the week before. On the picture, the snow reaches high above the windows on the ground floor. Now, it’s just knee high. It hasn’t been melting, my father says, it’s just become more compact.

Later, when I sit down to listen to this album, I can’t help thinking about the snow compressing, becoming warm and heavy, retracting into itself, like a slow, punctured balloon. I hear instruments breathing together at the beginning of “Nedvekst”, the sound of granular material. Sometimes, I feel safe inside the sound of snow, other times I swear I hear ice cracking.

The titles of Selektiv hogst are referring to textures of wood and fur, not snow. Its vocabulary comes from the world of growth and decay, peace and fear in the natural world. When I put the titles together, I think of a wandering animal in a forest both threatening and beautiful. And so after listening to the album, I wander through the streets of the small, southern town like the animal of Selektiv hogst – watching my step, aware of invisible dangers, perhaps the heavy, grainy breaths through a tuba on “Fanget under giftig bark”. Around me, blocks of ice fall from rooftops onto the street, breaking on the asphalt, leaving diamond trails.

Back home, the snow disappearing into sounds and colours. Water drips from ice taps everywhere. Houses and trees appear from their snowy shells. In a garden, I see a pile of rust-coloured, rotten apples. I am constantly reminded of the process of rot and decay – materials softening, warming up, melting and giving life. All of a sudden I am no longer inside snow when I listen to Selektiv hogst, but inside the wood of a tree trunk. I think to myself that the ensemble Koboku Senj? (Varianter av døde trær) has given sound to the textures of life and death: not just abstract, bodiless ideas, but tree rings.

Jenny Hval, March 2010

  • Peter Margasak (Chicago Reader)

On its brand-new debut album, Selektiv Hogst (Sofa), Japanese-Norwegian quintet Koboku Senju follows a calm through-line across turbulent free improvisation, finding austere and meditative beauty in a profusion of sonic details and textures that easily could’ve been dizzying. Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar) and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board) provide what little noise and aggression there is in the music—the former kicks up some dissonance on the opening track, «Nedvekst (Om a Vokse Nedover)»—but generally they stop at suggesting violence, creating an atmosphere of portent and dread with high-frequency long tones and sparse, ringing guitar. The Norwegians—tubaist Martin Taxt and remarkable trumpet-sax duo Streifenjunko—are responsible for most of the activity, combining unpitched streams of breath, striated legato phrases, sputtery flatulence, terse melodic curlicues, percussive popping, and more. It all collides and overlaps into an interwoven whole, so that it’s useless to try to identify foreground and background parts; the pleasure is in how the components fit together and morph en masse. Taxt told me via e-mail that a few of the album’s seven tracks developed from simple prompts—»someone saying a word like death metal, funeral march, or techno before we started playing»—but of course nothing here sounds remotely like any of those genres. The performances are beguilingly rich and uncategorizable, and Selektiv Hogst is easily the best free-improv recording I’ve heard in years.

Peter Margasak (Chicago Reader)

  • The Watchful Ear

Back at my normal place of work today after a week of being bored but relaxing a little in London. The return to hard work hit me hard today, and I’m pretty weary as I sit and type this tonight. Looking out of the window at the fierce red of the sky as the sun sets and music purrs away behind me I guess it would be hard to improve life all that much. At least for this moment anyway. This evening I have returned to the Koboku Senjû album titled Selektiv Hogst, recently released on the Sofa label. Koboku Senjû is the rather beautiful title given to the Norwegian/Japanese quintet of Toshimaru Nakamura, (no-input mixing board) Tetuzi Akiyama, (acoustic guitar) Espen Reinertsen, (sax and flute) Eivind Lønning, (trumpet) and Martin taxt (tuba). There are seven pieces here, all with suitably difficult Norwegian titles, recorded in the beautiful city of Trondheim, Norway in late 2008.

The music here is generally all a really good listen. All improvised, the stark contrasts between the flutter and dry groans of the wind instruments against the slow, melancholic finger picking of Akiyama’s guitar and the familiar fizz and whistle of Nakamura’s mixer gives the music a crunchy edge. The warmth of the Norwegians’ playing, coupled with Akiyama’s bluesy playing, which reminds me almost of Tilbury’s piano in its gentle accompaniment mode here are offset by the electronics of Nakamura, which are as ever perfectly weighted to give an abrasive face to the prettier material, a gentler tonal undercurrent to the busier pieces. There is a nice sense of balance throughout the album, that combination of the acoustic and electronic that invariably wins me over.

I often see music in my head as colours, strips of knotted colour on some occasions, flashes or fields of tone on others, depending on the music. This is certainly the case here. The warmth of the wind instruments appear as purples and golds, the more breathy, low sounds are shades of grey, Nakaumura’s slithers of feedback all bright colours, yellows and white, with Akiyama dropping deep scarlet notes throughout. I mention this because of the depth of colour and texture in this music, it’s a very rich field of sounds, combinations of long pitches punctuated by shorter sounds, bit of melody, soft, pretty passages and gritty, dirty broadsides. It’s a hard one to compare to very much else. Its clearly improvised, and trying to describe what makes it sound individual is difficult, but the mix of three wind instruments, the bluesy guitar and the undercurrent of electronic is quite unusual and brings a blend of sounds that on paper shouldn’t really work, but in reality come together very nicely.

A luscious, bright and rich disc then, another example of the blossoming relationship between these two Japanese musicians and Scandinavian collaborators that has brought a nice little flurry of enjoyable music of late.

The Watchful Ear

  • Daniel Spicer (The Wire)

With a name meaning Selection of dead trees, no one’s expecting this Norwegian/Japanese quintet to be making toe-tapping dance tunes. But the name does perfectly describe their stark and at times ominously beautiful debut album. The improvisations are centered around the tense dynamic between Tetuzi Akiyama’s relaxed, minimal, Country-tinged acoustic guitar and the unsettling electronic sounds generated by Toshimaru Nakamura at the no-input mixing board. The controlled and manipulated feedback isn’t always a particulary comfortable sound, but when it settles into a cikada hum, with lazy guitar twangs, faint saxophone harmonics and sparing daubs of trumpet and tuba, you could almost be eavesdropping on a soporific, late-night, back-porch jam.

Daniel Spicer (The Wire)

  • Johan Redin (

Kobo Senjû är en norsk-japansk kvintett med Tetzu Akiyama på gitarr, Toshimaru Nakamura på no-input mixing board, Martin Taxt på Tuba, Espen Reinertsen på sax och fljöt samt Eivind Lønning på trumpet. Japanska improlegender möter nytt norskt ljudskapande. Men det är knappast för första gången. Med det nya tillskottet Nakamura är den nya skivan Selektiv hogst en fortsättning på Varianter av døde trær som släpptes på samma bolag för ett par år sedan. Tyvärr har jag ännu inte hör den (ett måste på min lista), men däremot lyssnar jag så ofta jag kan på Reinertsen och Lønnings No Longer Burning under duonamnet Streifenjunko. Deras sökande och varma spel grep mig lika mycket då som i det här sammanhanget. Här är det uppenbart hur väl de fungerar tillsammans med Akiyama och Nakamura, särskilt när Akiyama somnar in i något slags Ry Cooder-glidande, till exempel i det enastående stycket ”Alt starter med regn”.

Norsk country? Nej. Japansk blues? Ja. Det handlar om en avskalad stillastående, rentav klagande rörelse. Den här kvintetten är mästare på att snabbt hitta det rätta tillståndet, ett slags ro, och sedan i stillhet mejsla ut melankoliska detaljer mot en höstlik fond. Nakamura attackerar med rejält brus under skivans första minuter, men strax blir han på annat humör. Samspelet utvecklar sig till en enda stor svävande form där kontrasterna höst och värme samexisterar på ett självklart sätt. Taxts tuba ger stundtals en fantastisk botten till ljudbilden; den är fint avpassad och definierad. Tillsammans lägger de till och drar ifrån i olika klangrika färgkombinationer. Ingenting bryter loss, musiken blir till i ett slags stoiskt accepterande lugn.

Skivbolaget Sofa fyller 10 år och detta firas alltså genom att ge oss lyssnare en present! Det här är en storslagen och riktigt välsmakande musik. Det är improvisation som placerar sig tätt vid lyriken snarare än abstraktionen. Magnifikt var ordet.

Johan Redin (

  • Arild R. Andersen (Aftenposten)

Skjørt og tålmodig.

Tetuzi Akiyama og Toshimaru Nakamura er også med i den japansk/norske kvintetten Koboku Senjû. Espen Reinertsen, saksofon og fløyte, Eivind Lønning, trompet og Martin Taxt, tuba utgjør resten av bandet. Selektiv hogst rommer fri og interessant improvisasjon og maner frem en lydidentitet for vår tid. Hver enkelt musiker følger et minimalistisk imperativ, med sterkt fokus på kollektiv vev. Det er tilfredsstillende å høre hvordan lydkomponentene inngår allianser og gir fremdriften original retning. Stillferdigheten har gode kår. Det låter skjørt, tålmodig og delikat. Begge disse utgivelsene har sine forutsetninger i 1990-tallets Onkyo-bevegelse.


Arild R. Andersen (Aftenposten)

  • Tor Hammerø (

For to år siden så en kvartett bestående av den japanske gitaristen Tetuzi Akiyama og nordmennene Eivind Lønning på trompet, Espen Reinertsen på tenorsaksofon og fløyte og tubaisten Martin Taxt dagens lys på cd med ”Varianter av døde trær”. De ga oss musikk ulik alt annet som har vederfaret vårt sanseapparat.

Akiyamas landsmann, nabo, kollega og venn Toshimaru Nakamura skrev liner notes til den utgivelsen og det gjorde han så bra at han like godt blei innlemma i bandet som nå kalles Koboku Senjû – som betyr varianter av døde trær på japansk, hvis jeg ikke tar mye feil – der han trakterer no-input mixing board. På godt (?) norsk betyr det at Nakamura er lyddesigner og det er for så vidt alle de andre også med sine mer tradisjonelle instrumenter.

Nå er instrumentene til de fire opprinnelige medlemmene det eneste tradisjonelle ved musikken og uttrykket til Koboku Senjû. Vi blir invitert inn i et lydlaboratorium der musikken blir unnfanga der og da av usedvanlig søkende sjeler som utfordrer hverandre, sine instrumenter og oss på et vis som gjør at vi ikke kan være likegyldig til det vi blir utsatt for.

Her er det ikke tradisjonell rytmikk eller melodier å forholde seg til – det er heller musikalske droner som får utvikle seg sakte og inderlig. Artisten og forfatteren Jenny Hval – Rockettothesky – har skrevet en annerledes tekst i coveret som forteller om hvordan musikken kan oppfattes. Noe som er helt sikkert er at den kan oppfattes på veldig mange andre måter også.

Koboku Senjû er et kollektiv som gir oss musikk man kan like eller ikke like. Det man definitivt ikke kan gjøre med ”Selektiv hogst” er å stille seg likegyldig til den – musikken er altfor unik, utfordrende og original til det.


Tor Hammerø (

  • François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

A splendid CD of microsonic improvisation. Kobuku Senjû is a Norwegian-Japanese quintet: Tetuzi Akiyama, Toshimaru Nakamura, Espen Reinertsen, Eiving Lønning, and Martin Taxt. So we have acoustic guitar, no-input mixing board, sax, trumpet, and tuba. Lots of feedback playing from the winds (the techniques developed by John Butcher are put to good use), lots of extremely delicate festures, splendid group playing while maintaining the idiosyncrasies of each player. There’s no sublimation of the self to the greater whole here, although it doesn’t turn into a string of solos either. Another very fine production from the Sofa label – get it along with the recent CD by Mural (Kim Myhr, Jim Denley, Ingar Zach), two serious candidates to my 2010 year-end list.

François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

  • Brian Olewnick

Koboku Senjû is Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar), Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board), Espen Reinertsen (saxophones, flute), Eivind Lønning (trumpet) and Martin Taxt (tuba)–a wonderful mixture of textures, first of all. Those colors are always evident, enlivening a track or two that might otherwise stall a bit, but the better pieces, especially the first and last cuts, are small gems. Akiyama stays on acoustic and leans toward melodic blues references–this is key, I think, toward impelling the quintet into slightly more tonal waters, where the music really solidifies and takes off. Perfect balance is achieved by Toshi as well; he’s really a central element here, his electronics leavening the horns. Reinertsen’s saxophone gets a bit to saxophone-y in a Gustafsson sense on occasion, but the pieces are never less than satisfying and sometimes a good bit more. Something about the set reminded me, generally speaking, of the Beins/Neumann «lidingo» on Erstwhile; not sure what, exactly. Strong release, really fine at its peak, looking forward to seeing them in a few weeks.

They’ll be performing, among other places in Philadelphia on May 28th. I’ll be there.

Brian Olewnick (

  • Killed in Cars

The no-input mixing board may be the most alien thing I’ve heard yet. That sound, that screeching feedback, from a just noticeable hiss to an intrusive squaller, it’s beyond me. And its mechanics are almost intentionally foreign — as though it neither wants to be a conventional instrument nor associate with such earthly objects. So it should come as no surprise that so much of its history is dominated by a synthetic narrative. Frequently accompanied by the otherworldly — vinyl without “music,” a six stringed instrument that won’t be forthcoming on Guitar Hero 12 —, the no-input mixer’s recorded interactions have, to put it kindly, been off-putting to many.

But something has changed. The no-input’s foremost interpreter, Toshimaru Nakamura, has injected some humanity into this being; he’s even managed to convince it to play nice with normal instruments. Maybe Toshi was fed up with his pal getting a bad rap; or maybe Mr. Nakamura’s stylistic approach has softened; or maybe the no-input has achieved a greater degree of sentience. Nonetheless, with this new quintet, Koboku Senjû, Selektiv hogst demonstrates these newfound good vibes. Along with last year’s In Search of Wild Tulips, Selektiv hogst is a collaboration with Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar), but this time Toshi is also joined by Martin Taxt (tuba), Eivind Lønning (trumpet), and Espen Reinertsen (tenor sax and flute).

The sound herein is warm and inviting — friendly almost. Selektiv hogst may be the closest an EAI album has come to being a summertime jam for me, with the no-input mixer re-invoking the cicada imagery of Semi-Impressionism. Though their solo contributions deserve merit, Taxt and Reinertsen frequently provide the harmonic backdrop for the remaining three’s meandering — Tetuzi’s scratching, Lønning’s muted squeaks, and of course Toshi’s outbursts. However this affair isn’t just a lazy July evening down at the lake; like a heat induced thunderstorm, this collective manages to frequently reassert their obtuse tendencies, spoiling and dispelling the summer daze.

I’ve had this album now for a month and without a doubt it is my favorite of the year to date. Moreover, it’d take a jaw-dropping second half release to knock Selektiv hogst out of my number one position.

Killed in Cars (…)

Varianter av døde trær

Varianter av døde trær

Catalog id: SOFA526

Released: June, 2008

Martin Taxt – tuba
Tetuzi Akiyama – guitar
Espen Reinertsen – saxophone & flute
Eivind Lønning – trumpet

  • Liner notes by Toshimaru Nakamura

Tetuzi Akiyama is a friend of mine, and my colleague musician, and my neighbour. One day, his daily report on himself delivered a news about his latest recording with three Norwegian musicians, which he had done during one of his frequent outings abroad. Like always, he was talking to me as if he was mumbling away to himself, like always, I knew he expected me to listen to his monologue so I was nodding as if I was listening and understood just to be nice and friendly to him. At some point, like always, the vague idea of what he had been talking about started taking its form, and I figured out he was asking me to do mastering work on the recording. No problem. That’s what I do for friends’ music.

Tetuzi told me that the band members and himself had come to an agreement that they had done an adequate work on sound during the mixing session, so he did not want me to change the sound character so much from the sound of the original mix. All right. I know that. Almost nobody who employs me wants me to touch her/his sound so much. Instead, they often ask me to take care of gaps between pieces, and noise before and after their actual musical performances. Most of musicians prefer clean start and end. They would simply ask me to eliminate all the noise before the music starts, and after the music stops, or ask me to give a track a smooth fade out. Most of the time, I would say OK. But sometimes, I would suggest musicians to leave some bits of those noise, telling them how much I think all those «unwanted noise» could give their music liveliness. Some of musicians agree with my suggestion. So, those narrow gaps between tracks became my area to work on. Thanks to the musicians. Now I am a master of «Before and After.»

It was a blossoming period for cherry trees in Tokyo. The next afternoon, I was walking through a path to go to Tetuzi’s place with the master CDR in my hand, under the cherry trees fully blossomed like everywhere in Tokyo. Petals were dancing and showering down in the occasional flurry of wind. I thought of enclose one or two of those petals in the parcel of the master CDR, but I restrained myself from doing so. I sometimes have to behave myself like a clean-cut engineer.

Toshimaru Nakamura, April 2008

  • Kurt Gottschalk (Signal to Noise)

Guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama is an anomaly on the onkyo scene: he doesn’t treat extreme minimalism as if it were sacrosanct. This central figure to the genre-setting Off-Site concerts is just as beholden to ’70s rock and folk-styled finger-picking, making every one of his outings unpredictable. Even so, Varianter av døde trær, his record with a trio of Norwegian horn players, is almost confounding in it’s structural simplicity. It’s an ordered work for four improvisers (Akiyama on guitar, Mertin Taxt on tuba, Eivind Lønning on trumpet and Espen Reinersten on saxophone and flute) without composer credits but proceeding according to an agreed-upon modus operandi. The group plays a seven-part, 25-minute suite, sometimes holding a single note in unison, other times playing sparse, quiet sounds, occasionally making obvious references to acoustic blues and New Orleans brass bands. Then, they do it again, working through alternate versions of the same movements, excising a couple and dropping in a new electric guitar piece with slow, distant horns, then they wrap it up with yet another repetition of the opening single-note piece. As a whole, it manages to be both familiar and perplexing, and staggeringly beautiful.

Kurt Gottschalk (Signal to Noise)

  • Philip Clark (The Wire)

Tokyo guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama has spoken about provoking elements of «primitivism and realism» and deploying extremes of textures and dynamics to convert his body into an «electronic entity». Here he’s performing with three Norwegian improvisors – Martin Taxt (tuba), Eivind Lønning (trumpet) and Espen Reinertsen (tenor saxophone, flute) – in a set that sculpts tactile sound objects out of the fundamental characteristics of their instruments. Opening track «Tverrsnitt Av Fuge» is a drone. At first Lønning’s middle distance vibrato-less trumpet dominates, but careful listening reveals greather depth – Taxt’s tuba shadows the trumpet, as Reinertsen’s tenor piles on the partials in between.
But guitars don’t function well within drones and Akiyama’s presence only makes itself felt in the next track. He digs back to the sound of Delta bluesman, skirting around riffs, as his fingers evoke a slide guitar. His gestures are vigorously articulated and broken up with busy silences. In answer, the wind trio ignore his implied stylistic reference, instead quarrying into the sonic DNA of Akiyama’s twangy overtones to fire back caterwauling multiphonics and growls.
The pointilistic mechanics of track three are as different again; track four is a trippy guitar solo, while the fifth piece hints at jazz figurations. The realisation dawns that Akiyama has designed each number as a distinctive character piece. And then a climatic bombshell – after track seven, the album flips back on itself, reiterating earlier material in shortened versions, building a palindrome that transforms content into form, as you twig about how catchy his material was in the first place.

Philip Clark (The Wire)

  • Tor Hammerø (

Langsam aber plötzlich

En japansk gitarist møter spennende representanter for den oppvoksende norske jazzslekt. Slikt blir det unik musikk av.

Tetuzi Akiyama er en musikant med fartstid innenfor kunstmusikk med røtter innen både blues og samtidskomponister som John Cage og Morton Feldman. Når så improelementet er svært sentralt, så skjønner man raskt at den musikalske stuinga er av en helt spesiell karakter.

Akiyama har jobba med mangt og mange både i Japan, i USA og i Europa. Han har hele tida bevegd seg i ymse grenseland – rock, blues, samtidsmusikk og jazz/impro er uttrykk han på ingen måte er ukjent med.

Sammen med trompeteren Eivind Lønning, tenorsaksofonisten og fløytisten Espen Reinertsen og tubaisten Martin Taxt – unge, meget lovende herrer med erfaring fra bl.a. Trondheim Jazz Orchestra og Music for a Weill – har Akiyama skapt musikk som kryper inn i sjela på en stille, langsom måte.

Dette er musikk som på et forsiktig vis langsomt utvikler seg. Lufta og rommet er viktige ingredienser og de fires evne til å lytte er helt avgjørende for det vellykka resultatet. Melodikken er ikke det sentrale – mye mer stemningene kvartetten frambringer.

”Varianter av døde trær” – hvilken tittel! – er musikk egna for ettertanka og kontemplasjon. Mange kunne altså hatt glede og nytte av den.

Tor Hammerø (

  • Andreas Ervik (

Døde trær og råtnende planter fascinerer meg. Naturligvis fordi det får meg til å tenke på mitt eget endelikt, men ikke bare derfor. Hvis man går nær nok inntil en vekst i forfall vil man oppdage en særegen tekstur. Fargene har fått flere sjatteringer, og blader er gjerne så uttørkede at de ser ut som de vil smuldre opp bare man rører ved dem. Mose, lav og nydelig, bomullsaktig puss kan ha begynt å vokse på planteliket.

Albumet ”Varianter av døde trær” høres ikke ut som det er i ferd med å forvitre, men fokuset er utvilsomt på teksturen. De unge norske horn-improvisatørene Martin Taxt, Eivind Lønning og Espen Reinertsen foretrekker lange klangflater. Dermed får lytteren god tid til å fordype seg i de mørke tonene fra Taxts tuba, Lønnings trompet og Reinertsens tenorsaksofon.

Men blåserekken spiller litt for ensformig til å holde konsentrasjonen min i lengden, så heldigvis har de med seg den japanske gitaristen Tetuzi Akiyama . Han tilfører en slags primitivistisk, dekonstruert blues-stil, til hornenes droner. Spilleteknikken til Akiyama har jeg inntrykk av at flere forsøker seg på for tiden, men da på en langt tørrere og mer prosaisk måte. Han evner det kunststykket å få fritt gitarspill til å spille på emosjonelle strenger.

Hva techno har med døde trær er uvisst, men tre korte spor kalt ”Tekno” er blant de mest interessante på albumet. Det vrir og bukter seg, og klikker og skurrer som minimalistisk techno bør, men det er spilt på akustiske instrumenter, fritt-improviserende, så resultatet er herlig og annerledes. Et lignende prosjekt i fullformat hadde ikke vært å forakte. Som det er, inneholder Varianter av døde trær mange gode øyeblikk, men albumet er en smule langdrygt.

Andreas Ervik (

  • The Watchful Ear

The disc I have been playing this evening is another that catalogues the recent close relationship between the Japanese musicians Tetuzi Akiyama and Toshimaru Nakamura and assorted Scandinavian musicians. Following their work with the Swedish Bombax Bombax contingent, Nakamura’s ongoing duo with Hårvard Volden and his newly released collaboration with Arve Henriksen comes a couple of albums with the Norewgian trio of Martin Taxt (tuba) Eivind Lønning (trumpet) and Espen Reinertsen (tenor sax and flute). The second of these releases, just out on the Sofa label is credited to a group involving all five musicians named Koboku Senju, and I will write about that one soon (its not even out of the shrinkwrap yet!) but first of all there was a release from late last year that Akiyama recorded with the three Norwegians called Varianter av døde trær. Its this disc I have been listening to this evening. Try as I may, no online translation site seems to be of any help with the title. Anyone?

Irrespective of what the title might mean, the music speaks for itself here, in a kind of rich, sumptuous language. There are fifteen tracks here, but there are only eight track titles, as many of the pieces are split into several parts, so for instance, tracks one, nine and fifteen are the three parts of a piece called Tverrsnitt av fuge, and tracks three, eleven and eight are all sections of something called Tekno. Three other pieces are split across two tracks. There are stylistic similarities between the pieces that are linked in name, and the way they are split up and spread throughout the disc works very well. It just makes explaining all of this in a review quite difficult!

The Watchful Ear