If you’re a regular podcast listener, you’ve no doubt heard of Welcome to Night Vale; maybe you’re even a hardcore fan and loyal listener. If you are, then this should be delightful news to you: The folks at Night Vale Presents have been releasing not one, but TWO new podcast titles for your ears and imaginations to enjoy.
These are not sequels to WTNV, nor, as far as we know, do they take place in the same fictional desert town. They do, however, feature the same unsettling otherwordly-ness and sense of mystery that made Welcome to Night Vale such a hit. At the same time, they’re wholly different from WTNV in terms of tone and plot, offering a breath of fresh air and intrigue while remaining loyal to the well-done creepiness of their titular podcast.
First up is Alice Isn’t Dead, which started airing in March 2016. Written by Joseph Fink and narrated by Jasika Nicole, it follows the story of a truck driver as she travels across America in search of her missing wife. We are given the story via snippets of voice recordings made by the protagonist, and, as she progresses in her search, we discover that there is much more at stake for her and the world she lives in than simply the mystery of a vanished spouse. As of today, it contains 10 episodes, which fall under “Part 1” of the story. New episodes come out every other Tuesday.
It has a much darker tone compared to Welcome to Night Vale; although humor does exist in the form of the protagonist’s commentary, gone are the whimsical and even light-hearted fancies that existed in the world of Night Vale. It skillfully captures a looming sense of isolation, and the sense that something is always on your tail no matter how fast you drive. You’ll have to listen for yourself to see. Maybe put in on during a road trip, just to enhance the experience?
The voice acting is, as expected, phenomenal. The underlying sense of grim foreboding is both delicious and unsettling. And, like Welcome to Night Vale, each episode leaves you with more questions than answers.
The newest offering, Within the Wires, had its first episode released on June 21st, 2016. Two episodes are out at the moment, with 8 more in the works for a total of 10 episodes in the first season. Like Alice isn’t Dead, new episodes come out every Tuesday. Written by Jeffrey Cranor, and narrated by Janina Matthewson, this series manages to be even stranger and more mysterious than its predecessors.
Each episode takes the form of a “relaxation cassette”, with a side A and a side B, separated by a brief message from the creators. The narrator seems to be no more than a pre-recorded voice, complete with a soothing soundtrack accompaniment, giving you instructions to follow in order to perform a relaxation exercise. As you listen, however, you start to piece together information given to you by the voice regarding who you are, where you are, and what exactly is happening around you. At some point, you realize that the purpose of the cassettes is not quite what you were initially told. As your identity and the world around you takes shape, led by nothing more than clues from a soothing voice, the story begins to unravel in all of its glorious creepiness.
In terms of concept, this has got to be my favorite one so far. You KNOW it’s going to end up with some degree of creepiness, considering who the creators are, but Within the Wires gives you that realization at a tantalizingly slow pace. I can’t explain much more without giving important plot points away, so I strongly urge you to try this one out for yourself without knowing anything else about it. My recommendation is to listen to it lying down and with your eyes closed, exactly like the voice on the tape instructs.
All of their podcasts are available on iTunes, and you can find more information on their website at Night Vale Presents.