It’s hard to directly capture the essence of Argentinian singer-songwriter Tei Shi’s newest album, Crawl Space. A patchwork quilt of sounds: echoing melodies dissolve into bold synth-pop harmonies, discombobulated beats peeter off into steady instrumental backgrounds. Crawl Space almost seems unfinished, a scrapbook of odd bits and pieces; as you rifle through its mismatching pages, you are plunged into Tei Shi’s dreamscape, her most intimate moments, her darkest fears.
While this album is more complex than any of Tei Shi’s previous EPs, incorporating more elements and drawing from a wider variety of musical genres, it is infinitely more private than anything she has created in the past. Crawl Space is an exorcism: Tei Shi confronting her demons one angelic note at a time.
Tei Shi’s style has significantly matured since the release of her very first EP Saudade in 2013. However, there are certain components that have remained constant. The simple combination of airy vocals and dynamic background, most prominently found in songs “Keep Running” and “Creep,” directly parallels songs “Basically” and “Nevermind the End” from previous albums. But while these past releases were heavily minimalist, not allowing songs to evolve into greater complexity, Crawl Space dives into the unknown with verve. Its songs are varying, relying less on vocals and allowing background rhythms to take a more prominent role in creating dynamism.
For instance, in “Baby,” the smooth blend of electronic and instrumental components help bolster Tei Shi’s croon of “Oh, baby love” and turn the fourth track of Crawl Space into an otherworldly blur. Contrastingly, “Justify” is all sharp edges, honed beats daring anyone listening to “justify me, now.” The final song, “Sleepy” takes an entirely new direction altogether, with soft piano chords forming a lullaby-esque eulogy.
Tei Shi’s music is an adventure. Like an antiquated mansion, Crawl Space is a maze of winding corridors and hidden rooms, every turn of the corner revealing a new surprise. Layers upon ghostly layers, the tracks in Crawl Space consistently work to uncover fresh perspectives on Tei Shi.
For example, “Como Si” stands out as the only track sung in Tei Shi’s native language, Spanish. It offers a glimpse into an aspect of Tei Shi that had never been significantly explored within her music. The song itself is achingly vulnerable: The muted atmospheric background conceding the beauty of the language itself to encompass a majority of the song. Even if you can’t directly translate the lyrics, the caring devotion in Tei Shi’s soft utterances makes the significance of “Como Si” clear.
Though long, Crawl Space is enticing. Each song hints at something you can almost see, but not quite. Largely abstract, what helps ground this constantly-evolving album are the brief interjections of spoken word recordings. Songs “way to record,” “bad singer” and “bad girl” feature solely the bold voice of a little girl. These fleeting moments of clarity help structure and ground the sprawling album. They also help construct a narrative; the unflinching declarations of “I’m a bad singer / I can’t do anything well” and “I’m the baddest singer / I confess it” found in “bad singer” and “bad girl” provide insight into Tei Shi’s fears, perhaps displaying the voices she has to overcome whenever producing a new album.
Crawl Space shines a spotlight on the skeletons in Tei Shi’s closet. Every track is unique, forming an album that shines with creativity, ingenuity and, most importantly, honesty. With it, Tei Shi stands bare, facing the dark expanse of covert fears and insecurities with dauntless confidence.