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Michal Jacaszek is a prolific Polish composer and producer of soundtracks and electroacoustic chamber pieces. Low-Fi Stories, his debut from 2004 (re-released in 2009), is a song cycle for flute, clarinet, upright bass, gramophone, and samples.

The inspiration for Low-Fi Stories is old radio productions of traditional Polish fairytales, and the Eastern mythic of these stories gets a disjointed treatment reminiscent of Tom Waits’ paint huffing sinister in Black Rider. A syncopated upright bass grounds opener “Rzecz Tajemna,” grooving amidst scattered electronics that sound like duffel bag zippers, a child crying through a busted baby monitor, and videogame power-ups. “Grill” is wide-eyed deranged, jerking through tightly wound music box piano, funky blaster pistol breakdowns, and foggy operatic divas. “Nedwed” is a goddamn carnival nightmare – rusty animatronics with all-tooth smiles look right through you as some oscillating aquatic worm burrows into your brain.

Like Waits with his croaking sentimentality, Jacaszek plays off his ghoulish leer with a lighter persona of jigging whimsy. Take the spastic triangle in “Rejs” and “Wio,” the Supertramp keybord in saccharine “Mikrodisko,” or the bongos and trumpet in “Wieczorynka.” And Jacaszek, despite his flashlight-under-chin flights of fancy, still hooks a groove into every song.

No wonder Jacaszek scores films – these songs are spatially dense and evocative narratives on their own (even without the fairytale programmatic setting, which is lost on this red-blooded American monoglot).

Enjoy the video to “Grill,” and stream the rest of the record here.

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