Teresa Suárez Cosío has one hell of a roster. When not fronting Guadalajara based garage-punk outfit Le Butcherettes, she’s collaborating with the cream of the crop of artistic rock. Namely, the Mars Volta’s very own conductor Omar Rodríguez-López in the kaleidoscopic outfit Bosnian Rainbows. In her own right, the songwriter works under the alias Teri Gender Bender, a confluence of male and female energy that rightly serves to front a range of shape-shifting tunes with a deft touch.
The experimental approach to image, vocal manipulation and genre-bending is somewhat of a natural occurrence to Mexican born Suárez Cosío, who experienced a feeling of outsider ‘otherness’ after moving to Denver. A prominent figure in the city’s punk scene, and taking inspiration from the 90s riot grrrl movement, the refuge served as a musical outlet to dispose tales of sexuality, propositioning and female empowerment; one stage moment involved being “dressed as housewives from the ‘50s, and I poured fake blood over myself and brought pig’s heads onto the stage with me”. Alongside being a second generation immigrant, living alongside her mother in El Paso who suffers from bipolar disorder, bombastic self-expression is a key component to Suárez Cosío’s aggressive, thought-out performance art.
Her solo Teri Gender Bender project sees an amalgamation of pared-back sound jams. It’s tough to place a finger on a singular style, as a multitude of EPs display her life experiences through electronic soundscapes, elements of art-pop and trip-hop. Following SATURN SEX, this four-song offering STATE OF FEAR carries an ominous tone over some twinkly explorations from Suárez Cosío’s keyboard, guitar, and wildly inventive vocal strokes.
Opener GIVE ME, GIVE ME meanders freakishly through some strange alien-like worlds, but always maintains a sultry groove through some inventive hi-hat and snare work. Her voice harmonises in a distinctly strange way with regular collaborator Rodríguez-López, as the track envelops you in an uneasy cuddle. The funkier tendencies come immediately through a jazzy drum intro on LET’S BEGIN, which sees Suárez Cosío’s whispery Spanish lyrics drifting tastefully over some tinkering keys. Its standout verses are so delectably dark it could be a bar of 70% Lindt chocolate. The mood is truly fascinating, enveloping.
THE SLOW LEAN is remarkably as straight-forward a pop-rocker as Teri Gender Bender is going to present here. It features a real head-bopper of a chorus (“If it’s not about the girl, then who changed you?”) which follows the minimalist plink-plonk of keys. The production across the board employs a whole range of sometimes skittish, sometimes buttery smooth synth lines; the build up to the final chorus is an interesting assortment of god-knows-what, but it’s sleek. Like I said, this may be the most accessible cut. Somehow. As for the final title track, the alluring tone is carried forward, with some buzzsaw whammy bar guitars flitting in and out as they please over a groaning bass line which sounds like ooze dripping out from a wall.
As EPs go, there’s a whole pack of implemented sounds happening here to showcase Suárez Cosío’s talents, but it feels like a complete work. Track to track we’re dragged along with playful trepidation, almost like the musical equivalent of the Siamese cats in The Lady & the Tramp – it comes at you with a wink hiding some sort of danger. “Love me, love me, love me, make my spirit part of you / Crush me, crush me, crush me into the space between your eyes” for instance. In one turn seductive, the other horrifying, all an indictment of the performer’s tough life experiences growing up.
With another EP on the way and a full-length next year, we haven’t heard the full spectrum of what Suárez Cosío has been toying with in the studio, but there’s no doubt it’ll continue to keep us on the edge of our toes. In her own words, “give me, give me”.
For fans of: Björk, The Mars Volta, Fiona Apple
‘STATE OF FEAR’ by Teri Gender Bender is released on 16th December on Clouds Hill.
Words by Elliot Burr