As improvements in technology have expanded musical possibilities and resulted in a surge of experimental music, it can be difficult for an artist to differentiate themselves in such an extensive landscape. For Grimes-approved new wave pop artist Tei Shi–real name Valerie Teicher–this isn’t an issue.
Born in Argentina, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter and producer makes music that isn’t confined to one genre but is still instantaneously recognizable as her own. Her first EP Saudade was the first taste we got of Tei Shi, also marking her first collaboration with producer Luca. It was their collaboration on a cover of Beyoncé’s “No Angel” that put them on the map; a unique take on an already acclaimed track was the boost Tei Shi needed. Now, she’s back with a full-length album comprised of a fusion of synths, evocative vocal loops, and a tinge of childlike whimsy.
As expected, Crawl Space a reflection of her eccentric musicality, but it also serves as a window into her own life experiences. The album opens with a clip of what appears to be a young Tei Shi speaking Spanglish as she learns how to record vocals via a cassette player, an homage to her Argentine roots and an allusion to the inspiration behind the album name; when she was younger, Tei Shi overcame her fear of the dark by entering a crawl space. Interludes featuring her younger self are interspersed throughout the record, chronicling her growth from fresh-faced newcomer to musical veteran.
“Keep Running,” the lead single from the record, is both catchy and otherworldly. The music video features a silk-clad Tei Shi performing karaoke at a neon house party, exploring the different rooms while seemingly invisible to other partygoers. Heavy drum hits bring a larger-than-life character to the song as Tei Shi croons a vocally demanding chorus.
The album’s other single, “How Far,” is mellower. Haunting vocals surf over Eagles-esque electric guitar, bringing the listener into Tei Shi’s world. “Justify,” a track in which Tei Shi is almost exclusively whispering over an electronic beat, is reminiscent of FKA Twigs. “Say You Do” belongs more in the pop world, baring a likeness to fellow alt-pop artists Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. Crawl Space takes a welcome turn with “Como Si,” a slow, sultry track that Tei Shi sings entirely in Spanish.
While the variety of elements on this record are undoubtedly unique to Tei Shi, it’s her own personal style and stage presence that set her apart from other experimental artists. She describes her music as fitting into the “mermaid genre,” and we can’t help but agree. Her work is playful yet unforgettably eerie. Its light and spirit mask its uncanny nature.
Crawl Space is an embodiment of Tei Shi’s artistry; it’s the refreshingly introspective body of work that you need in your life. After you become as obsessed with this record as we are, you can catch Tei Shi on tour with Danish artist MØ this year.