Review Summary: Musings from the fast lane.
There’s a distinctly urban feel to TAXI
. Never mind the fact that Lona--one of Poland’s premier rap artists, whose catalog is decorated enough to match the prestige of any given MC across the globe--lays out verses exclusively in their native tongue; the airtight arrangements of their latest effort speak in a universally understood language. A dimly-lit, bustling metropole unfurls over the album’s 46-minute ride, jumping from cab-to-cab as a variety of characters commentate on the cityscape around them, observing the daily motions, the unrest, the social norms that seem so silly in retrospect, and acting themselves as a reflection of those aforementioned phenomena.
manages to tell a story accessible to anyone, beautifully embodying the atmosphere of a city undergoing a series of upheavals, all of them filtered through the lens of those constantly maneuvering through the ever-changing streets. Each of the eleven tracks composing TAXI
function as episodic narratives generated by an extensive interviewing process, with Lona and co. surveying a wide-ranging group of Polish taxi drivers to outline personalities, imbue them with their own quirks, and color in the blanks with contemporary viewpoints on the world around them. Lona’s voice--equal parts carefree, cynical, passionate and detached--is what brings these characters to life, and at the behest of artfully-restrained jazz-infused arrangements, they take center stage in a city defined by a growling sax, droning synth lines, and an overarching dark atmosphere that illuminates Lona’s powerful storytelling.
The MC’s rapping abilities thrive within this relatively minimalist setting. He brings a variety of flow patterns to the table, ranging from the aggressive approach of “JEDZIESZ” to the reserved, somewhat mumbled delivery featured in “10 PYTAN.” In both cases, Lona seamlessly blends into the track, embodying the mood its atmosphere dictates, whether that be the despairing aura of the latter or the upbeat, dance-worthy interior of a tune like “BIEGNIJ.” There’s a bountiful diversity to his performance, and the way he can alternate from charismatic to antagonistic on a whim is impressive to witness, using his firm, emphatic voice to embody any given character and provide ample energy to proceedings.
The cooperation between Lona’s chameleon-like performance and the compositions around him is what ultimately defines TAXI
. Sporadic brass accompaniments appear, particularly in “KOCYK,” with Lona weaving through a central horn melody and bouncy, bass-heavy beat. The occasional flute sweeps through the streets, while scattered string arrangements dart between traffic, imbuing both a sense of calm and unease in the way they seem to vanish in the haze of an omnipresent ambiance, like a low-hanging fog that drips from towering skyscrapers. A variety of synths slink into fray, depicting the imposing monotony of industry with droning tones--the humming of “GODZINA WILKA” accentuates the distorted melody that barely pokes through the darkness--or shifting the mood of the night with delicate chimes, transforming “ZEBY NIE SKLAMAC” into a melancholic affair and “KIMAJ” into a playful romp. In sequence, these motions seem to flicker like scenes from a cab window, heightening the transitory nature of the profession and the unique perspective it can hold.
Subtlety is the driving force in constructing this engrossing atmosphere. Only towards the album’s end does Lona allow his songwriting to flaunt its full arsenal--”PAN DAREK” tosses in liberal saxophone soloing, disc scratching and ample bursts of synth melodies--but even then, it feels like an earned moment of release after trudging through the nadirs of the metro TAXI
depicts. The gentle background motions of each track entice further exploration, naturally drawing a listener further into Lona’s world and the narratives he lays out, be it a stray conversation with a Ukrainian refugee in “10 PYTAN” or a fleeting romance in “ZEBY NIE SKLAMAC.” It’s not long before every detail of the city comes into view, and any passing pedestrian appears in perfect clarity as if Lona has finely drawn Poland himself. One need not understand the words to necessarily comprehend the messages of TAXI
; it’s something that’s deeply felt, and it allows the album to attain a wide-ranging appeal.