It is inevitable that the rise of the podcast would eventually collide with the dark corners of the internet, and this coalescence is realised in spectacular fashion in the surreal world of Night Vale…
The most successful podcasts all follow a pretty similar blueprint. Charismatic host interviews interesting guest about specific topic or investigative journalist attempts to solve a sordid mystery. Welcome to Night Vale doesn’t just rip up the rule book, it transports it to another dimension before shrieking into an endless void.
Night Vale is a fictional desert town in America that exists outside the normal rules of time, physics and sanity. The podcast takes place in the form of a series of radio broadcasts from host Cecil Palmer taking in such vital news items as the mysterious shape that has appeared in Grove Park or the roving pack of feral dogs that are terrorising Night Vale. The broadcasts themselves become more absurd and existentialist as the podcast goes on with Cecil at one point pondering if he is in fact living in a nightmarish abyss, talking to nobody.
Welcome to Night Vale somehow manages to be eerie, frightening and laugh out loud funny, often in the same breath. If you imagine Tom Waits haunting What’s He Building? stretched out over a full album and produced by David Lynch, you are perhaps edging towards the same area occupied by Night Vale and its unorthodox population.
As podcasts are a fairly new medium, boundaries are still being pushed across the board. Welcome to Night Vale is yet another lurch forward, this time into an unimaginable and unknowable fictional world. One of the most hypnotic and addictive things to have ever troubled my ears.