The genre listed on Tei Shi’s Facebook page is “mermaid music,” and that unusual description is as evocative as it is appropriate. Tei Shi is the stage name of New York-based musician Valerie Teicher, and her haunting electronic songs sometimes resemble the sounds of mythic sea creatures liltingly singing from faraway rocks.
“I was making my Facebook page when I was about to release my first song, and there was a description box,” Teicher explained. “I didn’t really know how to describe the music, and I didn’t really want to say it was this or that. … In a sense, it did very much represent that first EP I put out; it was very ethereal. And it just kind of stuck because of that.”
Born in Argentina to Colombian parents, Teicher started writing and recording her own songs while studying voice at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I’ve been singing and writing songs for a really long time,” she said. “But it wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I actually started recording myself. … It was something I did on the side, sort of privately. I didn’t share it or put anything out.”
After working with producer Luca Buccellati, Teicher released her first EP, “Saudade,” in 2013. Tei Shi’s second EP, “Verde,” came out earlier this year, and it features five delicate, glassy siren songs. The electronics thrum and hum and sometimes bounce along, and Teicher’s vocals swirl around and reverberate deep within the mix.
Teicher describes her songwriting methods as a gradual building process. Her songs typically begin as a cappella arrangements, and the electronic elements – keyboards, beats, effects and harmonies – are added on top in deliberate layers. She mostly works alone, which isn’t surprising, since her work possesses the intimacy of the bedroom recordings that so many electronic artists have put out.
“It’s not something I bring a lot of people into,” Teicher said. “When you’re alone and you have an idea, there are no inhibitions. For me, having someone else in the room completely blocks me and makes me self-conscious.”
Even though Teicher’s focus is on the recording process – and despite the fact that electronic music is all about production – Tei Shi’s live shows are something to see. Teicher has both a touring drummer and guitarist, and she employs musical samples and creates vocal loops onstage.
“The live songs are pretty true to the recordings,” Teicher said, “but I have been conscious about making them more energetic and engaging and dynamic live. With the guitar being really present and the live drums, it gives a different feel to some of the songs. … But my main goal is to record an album and get it out there as soon as I can.”
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