In 2013, the world was introduced to a captivating new artist. Mixing dark, pulsating electronica with heavenly pop melodies, her songs were like battle cries and her voice, a hurricane. She burst into the collective consciousness with help from big names like Grimes and has remained on our radar ever since. This year, Tei Shi announced her official debut album Crawl Space, one that is sure to continue her ascension to full blown indie pop star status.
Tei Shi, whose real name is Valerie Teicher, spent her childhood in Argentina and Columbia before moving to Canada. After a stint at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, she relocated to New York City. While her two EP’s (2013’s Saudade, and 2015’s Verde) were remarkably successful ("Bassically," her single from Verde, has gained over three million views on YouTube), she felt overwhelmed and somewhat unprepared for the positive response. Growing pains ensued, which eventually lead to the creation of Crawl Space, a cool and confident manifestation of cathartic, artistic expression.
“I feel that for me generally, the challenges never seem to be the actual making of the music, that is the most pure and natural thing and continued to be so with this album,” she said in an email to Radio 3. “Everything surrounding the making of the music is what got in the way, so shedding some of that excess baggage and obstacles was exactly what I needed to do to bring the album to fruition, and it's kind of what the album tracks emotionally too."
You can hear equal parts release and hyperfocus in her songwriting, each exploring a new sonic territory. The slinky, sensual "Keep Running" commands a romantic prospect to get it together. "How Far" is a breakup ballad, with enough groove to sound like a cross between psychedelic rock and R&B. Crawl Space reflects her growth as an artist as well as a person, but the name is a lot more literal than you’d think.
“Shortly after my family moved from Colombia to Canada, I started having a really hard time at night, falling asleep and I was really afraid of the nighttime,” she said. “I started forcing myself to sit in the crawlspace of our house for one minute each night by myself in the dark, as a way of confronting my fear and that would then allow me to relax and go to sleep. So the crawl space became a sort of ritual for getting myself out of this fear and anxiety, and that's kind of what the making of this album became. Similarly a practice in confronting fears and working my way through those issues.”
We all have our own version of a crawl space, whether it be literal or not. Tei Shi is the weathered warrior, beckoning you out after the battle with the voice of a thousand sirens.
Crawl Space is out March 31 on Arts & Crafts.
Listen to "How Far" below.