-If you’re here for music, dive right in. If you want to follow the story of New Albion, a review of the previous installment can be found here–
Series: Fairypunk (#3)
Runtime: 1hr 9mins
Cast: Liel Bar-Z, Psyche Chimera, Vivian Moonic, Oliver Marsh, Lauren Osborn
The final act of Paul Shapera’s third Shaperaverse trilogy is everything I hoped for, and then a whole lot more. It’s a glorious explosion of ideas which, in all honesty, should not work half as well as they do. Throw together post-humanism, jazz, fairies, techno, cyborgs, split personalities and the nature of storytelling, then wrap it in catchy lyrics, experimental narratives and raw emotion, and you’ll have all the ingredients needed for this series. Thankfully, Shapera continues to be the best musical chef around, and the payoff is spectacular.
As with the previous installments, The Lost Fairy is a standalone story that ties in to a larger world. Characters continue to cross over from other albums in ways both familiar and new. Fans of The New Albion Radio Hour and Miss Helen’s Weird West Cabaret are in for a particular treat. Jane the Cyborg, the Meme and the Mayor are all back from the previous volume too. We also get new characters, such as Jesse and Jakob Janssen, two minds within one body, traumatised and enraged by a war with the fairies. And of course the ever-brilliant Lauren Osborn is back in yet another role as the titular fairy.
Until now, most of my favourite Shapera tunes have been the solo ballads of ‘Hello AI’ and ‘The Sheriff’, or the battle-cry chanting of the Blood Red Dogs. But in The Lost Fairy, it’s the duets which shine. Bar-Z and Osborn complement each other perfectly, bringing out the best in both voices and characters. Oliver Marsh has the unenviable task of duetting with himself as the Janssens, yet pulls it off spectacularly, each half having distinct tone and temperament. Then there’s the bizzareness of ‘The Dwarves’, with its throat singing and chanting. It’s all a bit good, really.
But the undisputed star of the show continues to be Psyche Chimera as Han-Mi, the not-so remote narrator of the tale. her narration is as enchanting as ever, but this time around she has two musical numbers as well, and both are brilliant. ‘Intervention’ is a haunting callback to the past, and is followed by the most emotional dialogue of any Shapera album to date. And then there’s ‘Put on a Show’, the album closer. It’s a sweet, simple affair, imbued with more emotion than I’d thought possible. It is, to be blunt, absolutely beautiful, and I wish I could hear it for the first time every day.
This is not the end of the Shaperaverse, but it is a good place to pause for a moment, and think back on the 10+ hours that have been so far. Just writing that makes the ‘verse sound small, but’s honestly one of the most expansive worlds I’ve encountered, not just in audio but in the genre. There is so much sprawl I’ve lost track of it, but every re-listen reveals new secrets. Callbacks and foreshadowing abound. And boy do i do a lot of re-listening. On a creative level, it’s a wonder to behold. On a musical one, it’s near perfect.
There’s more to come, and while it’s hard to see how the current body can be improved on, I have no doubt Shapera will do just that.