(Disaster Amnesiac) Not to take anything away from the two discs preceding this one, but Ghost In The House's Second Sight is definitely the most juicily varied of the shipment. This group plays out fairly often, and their lineup is pretty stable. Thus, their sound is that of a working band. Disaster Amnesiac has seen them a few times, but can't recall Kyle Bruckmann hitting with them. He brings really great oboe and English horn classicism feels to tracks such as Low and Metal Land Miniatures. These tones contrast the metallic inventions from Tom Nunn and the prodigious gongs of Karen Stackpole. David Michalak joins it all together with stringed accents. This quartet's interactions are subtle but not pensive; one gets the impression that they're playing with and listening to each other. Not always the case in Improvised Music, but Ghost In The House nail that dynamic. Guest appearances from Dean Santomieri with his compelling elocution on The Dream Machine (along with Polly Moller), Dockside Discovery and the really funny The Bats (are hanging upside down), John Ingle's alto sax on Innocence Walks a Dark Path, Cindy Webster on saw, and Bart Hopkin on rumba box thicken the sweet and sour sonic pho of Second Sight. I used to know a guy who'd say about a still-developing band, "it ain't soup yet"; Ghost In The House have gone beyond all that. This group is the stock that some others are basing their stuff upon. - Mark Pino
(Vital Weekly) Ghost In The House is Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn), Tom Nunn (inventions), David Michalak (lap steel) and Karen Stackpole (gongs). Helped out by John Ingle (alto sax), Dean Santomieri (voice), Polly Moller (bass flute), Cindy Webster (saw) and Bart Hopkin (rumba box). David Michalak is the initiator behind this project. He is a filmmaker and musician. Since the early 70s he realized many films with original music. In the 90s he started a trio to play live scores to his films. In 2004 he started a new group Ghost in the Machine, exploring “the ethereal and elemental soundscapes where music suggests an image, a kind of picture music”. “I’ve always thought of music as kind of a second sight: a unique way of perceiving the world around us’. Their first release appeared in 2007 for Edgetone. Some ten years later we can welcome their second statement. I listened first to this CD on my way to my first Harry Partch-concert ever performed by the Scordatura ensemble, and was struck by similarities between the two. Like Partch, Ghost in the House uses micro tonality in some parts in their dramatic music. All eight tracks on this album are based on a scenario written by Michalak that is musically interpreted by the band. In most of the tracks this is done instrumentally. On two tracks the story is narrated by the voice of Dean Santomieri. This results in a strange, intriguing multidimensional work. The music is very evocative and narrative, full of spooky and sinister sounds. The metallic sounds generated by Nunns inventions, the gongs and other percussive instruments and objects by Stackpole, make it a very multi-coloured work. And make a nice contrast with the acoustical instruments, especially the oboe played by Bruckmann. Inventive and very weird chamber music it is. Totally convincing. Very original also, in the way Michalak successfully creates pictures - as it were - through his music. - Dolf Mulder
(The Rehearsal Studio) This past April, while waiting to be admitted to the Splinter Reeds concert that was being given to launch Pamela Z’s 2017 ROOM Series, I fell into conversation with David Michalak. I had come to know Michalak through his lap steel work and his collaborations with instrument inventor Tom Nunn. He asked if I knew about his Ghost In The House group, and I said that I did not. Within a matter of days, the mail brought me copy of Second Sight, which, according to Amazon.com, was released on the Public Eyesore label on April 21. When I ran the announcement that Ghost In The House would be taking the opening set in the SIMM (Static Illusion Methodical Madness) Series concert at the beginning of last month, I realized that I still had not yet listened to the album. Having now done so, my only regret is of the extent of my procrastination. The core of Ghost In The House is a quartet that adds two highly contrasting performers to T.D. Skatchit, the name under which Michalak and Nunn give their duo performances. On the one hand there is Kyle Bruckmann playing the familiar instruments of oboe and cor anglais. At the other end is percussionist Karen Stackpole, playing on so many different instruments on Second Sight that the album jacket requires over four lines of text to enumerate them all. That same album jacket also explains that each of the eight tracks is based on a scenario conceived by Michalak, which is then interpreted by the players through their collective performance. On two of the tracks Michalak has realized the scenario through text, which is narrated by “guest artist” (listed on the album jacket as a “Special Ghost”) Dean Santomieri; and on one of those tracks, “The Dream Machine,” the narration is supplemented with wordless vocalizing by Polly Moller. On another track, “Dockside Discovery,” Santomieri has provided his own text. Moller also plays bass flute; and other “Special Ghosts” are John Ingle on alto saxophone, Cindy Webster on saw, and Bart Hopkin on rumba box. However, even in the absence of text, the narrative foundations of the tracks are unmistakeable. Some of them are pretty straightforward, which is the case in the opening track “Ghost Train (to nowhere),” which benefits from the illustration on the front cover of the album: Other tracks involve more concrete sounds. On “Warning Signs” they are the sounds of penguins and Alaskan seals, meaning that warnings about global warming are coming simultaneously from the South Pole and the North Pole. “Low,” on the other hand, seems to have begun as an exploration of low-register sonorities from which the sense of an unspoken narration gradually seems to emerge. What may be most striking about this album, however, is the prevalence of soft-spoken rhetoric across its eight tracks. It is clear that, whether or not they are actually realized through words, there is a rhetorical intensity behind the underlying narratives. Less clear is how much of the music on this album is composed and how much is improvised; but, given the priority of the narrative element, drawing that distinction does not necessarily impact the listening experience itself. Similarly, little is to be gained from deciding whether this album should be classified as chamber music or jazz. More important is that this is a highly inventive intermingling of music and narrative than makes for a thoroughly engaging listening experience. - Stephen Smoliar
(Chattanooga Pulse) A friend once referred, somewhat comically disparagingly, to the sinister sounds and musique concrète of the British act Nurse With Wound as “haunted house music”. That came to mind when listening to the new album Second Sight from Ghost in the House, which evokes a sort of playful, eerie mood while providing transportive, experiential qualities—sure, it’s a dark, haunted house but the ghosts are friendly rather than terrifying. (Simpsons creator Matt Groening once wondered if Casper the Friendly Ghost was once Casper the Friendly Boy, but this writer digresses.) The core quartet explores the scenarios presented by filmmaker and multi-instrumentalist David Michalak, intended to evoke vivid pictures (with the titular “second sight” being music-invoked visuals) from hard-to-place sounds and occasional storytelling. Michalak (on lap steel, bass, “sonoglyph 2” and “box of junk” among other things) is joined by oboe and English horn player Kyle Bruckmann, instrument inventor Tom Nunn (who plays instruments including the “friction twister”, “ghost plate”, and “crustacean”) and percussionist Karen Stackpole who employs a number of gongs and metallic and wooden percussion, sometimes suggesting an Asian influence. Free from the constraints of consistent rhythms, Second Sight oozes freely with a dizzying array of sounds and a fog of mystery. Various animals make cameos, such as Alaskan seals and penguins on the squeaky “Warning Signs” or bat voices on “The Bats (are hanging upside down)”. One constant on the album is the melding of dark forces with playful attitudes, like on “Innocence Walks a Dark Path”. which combines ominous drones with the recurring “nanny nanny boo boo” melody. However, the album takes a grotesque turn with “Dockside Discovery”, with spoken-word vocals that describe a severed head being pulled out of the water, among wispy sounds and disquieting noises. But, for the most part, the aural variety and mischief on Second Sight make it a welcome experience into unknown depths. - Ernie Paik
(Improvijazzation Nation) The promoter who sends these particular types of albums just KNEW I would find this attractive… and the player list is totally impressive – Kyle Bruckmann, Tom Nunn, David Michalak, Karen Stackpole… with Special Ghosts: John Ingle, Dean Santomieri, Polly Moller, Cindy Webster, Bart Hopkin… names that ensure that any dedicated fan of improvised music will recognize one (or more) of. David came up with the concept – tunes that all suggest an image, and it will be very easy, even for the novice experimental listener, to “see” what’s being sung/played about, as on the opener, “Ghost Train“; and the real beauty of what they’ve done with that idea is that the tunes are “accessible”! If you can’t grasp the image on “The Bats” (scary though it may be), your ears (& maybe your heart) are “sonically dead”… this group of genuinely creative players have put together very pleasing sonic imagery that will hold a treasured position in your library. The most impressive song, ergo my personal favorite, of the eight offered up is the marvelously intricate “The Dream Machine“… the recording is flawless and chock-full of sights through sound that you’ll not soon forget. I give Ghost In The House a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this most inspiring and creative album. Get more information on the Public Eyesore label page for the release. - Dick Metcalf
(Kathodik) Tra passaggi che diresti revisione futuribile di umori arcaico/rituali alla Third Ear Band (l'iniziale e serpentella Ghost Train, la risonanza incantatoria di Innocence Walk A Dark Path), surreali astrazioni microtonali proiettate su fondali alla Moondog (Metal Land Miniatures), propensi nel combinar all'occorrenza, cameristiche dronanze metallico/aliene e flussi di allucinatorio spoken/noir (The Dream Machine, Doockside Discovery), pigolamenti pinguineschi, delizie concrete e orchestrazioni strumentali da interno angusto (Warning Signs), sequenze da livido sci-fi movies e trattamento materiali d'ascendenza Partch. I Ghost In The House, concepiti dal regista/musicista David Michalak (che spazia fra cordame, oggettistica, temi e suggestioni), in mirabile simbiosi con la strumentazione metallico/homemade di Tom Nunn, l'oboe e il corno inglese di Kyle Bruckmann, i riverberi etno/percussivi e l'orizzonte di gongs di Karen Stackpole, sono esperienza di quelle che non se ne vedono tante in giro. Sperimentazione divertita, minimale, astrale e sinistra, fra radiodramma d'avanguardia e la giusta dose di regressione infantile.
Coppini in mirabile fermentazione. - Marco Carcasi
(Sound Projector) Ghost In The House are a foursome of Bay Area improvisers coming together to record Second Sight (PE136). Eight tunes were based around the work of lap steel guitarist David Michalak, who has been making super 8 films since 1971, often pursuing themes such as ghosts, dreams, spirits, and other fugitives of the mind and soul. Kyle Bruckmann, Tom Nunn and Karen Stackpole join him in performing their open-ended musics around his scenarios, sometimes joined by guests such as Dean Santomieri (who also provided the original text that became ‘Dockside Discovery’). Wayward, jazz-inflected and percussion heavy tunes meander around shapelessly, but the album successfully conveys the impression of a world full of occult spirits, poltergeists and incomprehensible entities; we can never be sure of the ground on which we tread. Not especially dark; one might almost say the phantoms here are as benign as those in Casper The Friendly Ghost, though not as cute. Michalak also provided the cover art of the steam train belching psychedelic smoke; an image more appropriate for a Grateful Dead album, methinks. - Ed Pinsent