Feeling alone at ‘Station Blue’ | First Impressions

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It’s time to get cold, real cold. Today I’m talking about the new isolationist horror audio drama Station Blue. This will probably be the most first-impressiony-est of my first impressions as there are only two full episodes (and three prologue shorts) released as of this writing.

Station Blue is set in a location I’m quite shocked more podcasts haven’t taken advantage of yet: Antarctica. Not only that, but Antarctica during the harsh winter when no planes can get in or out in the event of an emergency. The idea of being completely stranded in a barren wasteland of snow and harsh winds is rife for horror potential, especially when one throws a creepy/mysterious research station into the mix. 

The show tells the story of Matthew, a 20-something burnout who has no real future prospects until he lucks into applying for a vaguely-defined job at a mysterious corporation. Soon he’s whisked away to Antarctica under the assurance that he’ll be the caretaker for a research station through the long, dark antarctic winter until a team of researchers shows up to relieve him.

Except for the tiny details that 1: The show’s cold open (hah) starts off with someone getting straight-up murdered by a mysterious entity and 2: when Matthew finally arrives he quickly discovers the second floor of this three-story building is completely locked down and the first floor has a mysterious door that doesn’t appear on any of the maps.

The narrative hook of Station Blue is we, the listeners, are hearing protagonist Matthew tell the story of his time at the titular station using clips from an audio recorder his mysterious employers encouraged him to use frequently, occasionally sprinkling in foreshadow-laden comments from future-Matthew.

One incredibly neat feature of this show that piques my interest is the fact that there are three teaser uploads leading up to the first full episode that act as prequels, giving the listener actual background information on the protagonist that isn’t necessarily needed, but adds a wonderful layer of depth to him if one bothers to listen. In an age where most AD teasers are either assemblages of clips or just a creator saying “Hey I’m making a thing please subscribe now,” the inclusion of plot-important tidbits was a nice touch.

While there have only been two substantial uploads to this point and only a few actual horror moments (including a well-earned fakeout jump scare, which is rare praise from me) I’m getting the feeling there is some excellent spooky ambiance and mysteries to be solved in the near future.

Now, before I get into my one substantial critique of the editing side of Station Blue I feel it’s only fair to clarify how I listen to most podcasts:

A large part of my podcast diet is consumed while driving long distances, plugging my phone into an Aux port in a large van or truck and burning up miles while listening to hours of content in one go. One downside to this is low-end sound effects and shows with a quieter mix sometimes get lost behind tire noise or the inherent rumbling of the poorly-maintained highways.

station blue

The above screenshot is three-ish minutes of audio from episode two of Station Blue, highlighting the biggest road bump (pun unintended) I have consuming the show. The show’s mastering seems to be working well as far as delivering actor audio with nice, crisp audio, but when the show comes to transitions and sound effect mixing things get a little extreme with no apparent normalization or loudness-matching effects. The difference between Matthew talking and the sound of him opening a door is extreme. While these sound effects can be tactfully deployed to act as jump-scares (this is a horror podcast, after all), it becomes a stressful show to listen to as one is straining to hear Matthew’s dialog while also preparing for whatever super-loud thing is about to happen next.

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For comparison, this is a screenshot of the same amount of audio from an early episode of Girl in Space. I’ve chosen this clip because 1: Girl in Space is easily understandable in my use-case of driving and 2: the show is recorded and edited in Audacity, an incredibly popular free editing software. Notice how everything in the waveform is, on average, within the same ballpark of the waveform. There are effects present in this clip, and they are noticeable over the actor’s speech, but they’re also normalized to a point where nothing is too quiet or too loud.

Even with this audio roadblock I’ve had a hell of a good time listening to the show so far and cannot wait to get my hands on new episodes. You can subscribe to the show yourself by searching “Station Blue” on your podcast app of choice or check out their Libsyn website.

Oh, and if you’re in the mood for a not-horror story starring an isolated character, check out my kinda-review for Girl in Space!

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