Ever wanted a female artist with awesomely soulful vocals to make cool, interesting, and meaningful music? Now you have one. On her latest EP, Saudade, Valerie Teicher, aka Tei Shi, makes an impressive debut, exposing herself musically as well as emotionally, with powerful and lasting effect.
The majority of Saudade is a cappella, with only minimal instrumentation and well-chosen electronic effects that highlight Tei Shi’s stunning, cavernous voice. Low and versatile, her vocals, such as those on the EP’s standout track, “Adder(f)all,” vibrate in your ears with an immediacy second only to if she were physically present and singing directly into your ear. Punctuated with occasional dance beats, sparse percussion, plucked electric guitar, maracas, or bass synth melodies, her voice slowly encompasses you, wrapping itself around you like a fog and settling hooks into your heart with each subsequent layer of breathy harmony, before tugging on them repeatedly in cyclical patterns. Given the emotionality of her voice — its notes of longing, anger, and passion—every loop, harmony, suspension, and resolution is amazingly spot-on, carrying with it the gravity and precision of choral music and evoking its same sense of controlled chaos.
The rawness and immediacy of Tei Shi’s vocals is mirrored in Saudade‘s intensely personal lyrics. Saudade, a word with various origins in other languages but no direct translation into English, can be understood as “the love that remains after someone is gone.” In other words, it signifies one’s deep feeling of nostalgia and melancholy over something that is lost– a person or thing that may never be found again — and the complicated feelings of both happiness and sadness evoked upon remembrance of the lost person or thing. This reflective sense of nostalgia, sadness, and emptiness, along with defiance, resolution, and hope is powerfully present on Tei Shi’s EP.
Cycling through all the different emotional dimensions of a relationship — wanting it, losing it, missing it, and letting it go — and of defining oneself, Tei Shi bares her soul lyrically, with sentiments just as exposed, open, and intimate as her sparsely recorded voice, with lyrics like, “There is something right with you/ Nevermind the end”, “Is it mine or by design that I am here?”, and “I wanna be the weakness that takes you to a higher power.” The final lyric of the EP’s closing track, “heart-shaped birthmark,” epitomizes Saudade‘s dark, haunting, yet real sense of the power of losing yourself in another: “I wanna meet you at the bottom of the ocean/ I wanna live my life beside you in slow-motion.”
Through future-pop that both grooves with the edge of R&B and transports its listeners with the enormity of choral music, Tei Shi has already accomplished something impressive. But it’s the EP’s musical and emotional immediacy that brings about its lasting effect and attaches you and it on an instinctual level — one on which only Teicher’s voice and you exist; her emotions and those that she evokes in you. This intimacy brings to Tei Shi’s combination of genres something tribal, hymn-like, and basic: the feeling that she and the listener are sharing something — a cautionary tale, a confession, a secret. In her subsequent music, we will hopefully hear more of what Tei Shi has to share, and even more of what she is capable of.
Tei Shi – “M&Ms” Music Video