Genre: Crime, Time Travel
Runtime: 1hr 15mins
Release Date: 23/02/2021
Cast: Paul Shapera, Kerttu Aarnipuu, Oliver Marsh, Kiera-Marie Somers, Lauren Osborn, Hayley Warner,
The third volume in Paul Shapera’s trilogy of intricate and long-titled ‘secret’ New Albion albums has been out for less than two months, but it’s already my favourite of the set. While Katy Shaw had a great story and Nash Harding had some of the best music, Kevin + Abi brings both sides of the ever-growing Shaperaverse together to create an album that works as both a story and a piece of music. Like most of Shapera’s albums, this one stands alone perfectly well, telling a complete story from start to finish. But, naturally for a shared universe, there is more here than meets the eye, and veteran listeners will recognise a lot of the names, and get more out of the album as a result.
As the title suggests, this is a murder mystery. Now, crime and science fiction go hand in hand very well, but I can’t think of that many time-travelling murder mysteries. The jumping through time in this album leads to a series of crime scenes which our titular detectives must investigate. At first, the more science fictional elements seem more set dressing than integral part, but as the album progresses it becomes clear that a lot more is going on here. In fact, there’s a whole bunch of plot elements thrown in. Murder, time travel, but also family feuds, a goblin seeking a magic pendant, and of course familiar themes such as posthumanism and the nature of narrative. Also at work is the set-up for Shapera’s next work, which I believe will be a six-part epic, which I am very much looking forward to. But if all of this sounds like too much for the casual listener to take in, don’t worry about it. even without all that extra knowledge, this still works as a murder mystery, and even with all that’s going on, you’ll never be confused for long.
The cast is a largely familiar showcase of Shaperaverse favourites. Kiera-Marie Somers plays witch Abi alongside an almost unrecognisable Oliver Marsh as the oft-mentioned Kevin the Mouse. Kerttu Aarnipuu returns as Ryvvyr the goblin, while Shapera himself once again provides the narration and interjections of Michael. There’s a little bit of doubling up on roles throughout, but you’re never in doubt who is playing who, and there’s not a bad performance in the batch. And don’t forget to hang on until the very end, where there’s a surprise character cameo to set up what comes next.
All of the songs here are solid, but two stand out above the others. Opening number ‘Theme Song’ perfectly introduces the concept of the album, balancing dialogue, music and vocals masterfully. It’s one of those rare songs that had me laughing out loud. In contrast is the much heavier, faster paced ‘The Confession,’ which comes near the climax of the album. This one is a gleeful yet tragic race through the history of the Shaperaverse, taking in over a dozen albums in the process. It’s almost entirely infodump, but it works on every level, and I can’t think of anyone else who can pull it off as well as Shapera.
Kevin + Abi is a fine capstone to another successful experiment from one of the most bizarre performers out there. Fun, dark, and catchy, it’s definitely worth your time.