The Narcotix, “Dying”
By Nadine Smith · February 28, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP,

There’s something to be said for music made by collaborators who are genuinely friends. When performers connect on an emotional level, it can take the work to a deeper place, offering a level of safety and trust that allows you to follow your wildest creative instincts. The voices of Esther Quansah and Becky Foinchas, whose shared vision guides The Narcotix, intertwine so effortlessly that it’s no surprise to learn that the two have been close friends since they met as childhood classmates in Woodbridge, Virginia. The future songwriting partners bonded not only over their similar experiences as the daughters of African immigrants, but also over their wide-ranging love of music, all of which comes together on beautifully psychedelic debut album Dying.

Quansah and Foinchas’s friendship was cultivated in Virginia and their musical partnership developed in Brooklyn, but Dying doesn’t belong to one place—its sound exists within the ebbs and flows of cultural exchange. The duo’s warm, layered voices are supplemented by Sierra Leonean guitarist Adam Turay, who works his instrument in clean watercolor lines, as well as an expanded rhythm section of Jesse Heasly on bass and Matt Bent on percussion. The 12/8 polyrhythm that’s essential to West African music is the backbone of The Narcotix’s sound, but the lush arrangements and restless loops often evoke Stereolab, or even the neoclassical compositions of Steve Reich.

Quansah and Foinchas’s duets are like two carriers pinging a signal back and forth, their vocals unfolding in looping rounds that mimic the intricate polyrhythms played by their band. At times, there’s an eerie sense of calm—as on “The Maiden,” which consists entirely of the phrase “La la la,” repeated mantra-style until it dissolves into a puddle of pure sound. In other stretches, the vocal delivery tilts more toward melodrama, somewhere between operatic aria and choral chant, exploding into ecstatic wails and cackles on “The Sun.” Dying is a linguistic experience as much as an auditory one, as languages organically evolve from one to another: “The Mother” and “The Child” are largely in French, while “The Mystic” is partially sung in Spanish.

As the album’s title indicates, Dying doesn’t exist in a fixed state, but in the liminality of transition, charting its own course between not just musical genres but entire cultures and languages. While the affective sensation is meditative, the higher powers that speak through The Narcotix aren’t necessarily spiritual: it’s the vast breadth of human history that flows through them.

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