Category Archives: In my headphones

Dead Air 98.3 FM

There are multiple ways to listen at RadioDork.com

Somehow I missed this one last year. Maybe this is the first year he’s been listed in Shoutcast. Last year was lazy – I didn’t do in-depth research, mainly stuck to searching Shoutcast, Live365, etc.. 


This station is the project of one man – namely Clay Roe. 

He plays pretty much everything all the other stations listed in my Halloween Internet Radio post play, combined. (I will use a few terms in this post that assume you’ve read that post.) Old, new, novelty, sound clips. No longer stuff, though – he keeps it all pretty standard radio length. 

And, though he plays all the categories the other stations specialize in, he plays much better selections and more variety within those categories than I’ve heard anywhere else. And, I’ve heard him play stuff I’ve only ever heard on Dr. Demento but not any online station. 

This guy clearly knows music. Even what, at first glance, seem to be keyword songs aren’t the usual songs you hear everywhere else and were obviously chosen for content or mood/style, not just a keyword in a title. He also plays very fitting-for-the-season selections from well known musicians that I had never heard. And I love the non-English songs sprinkled in – that’s a great touch. 

Yes, he leans toward older songs. Oldies, vintage, whatever, but at least it’s not the same old stuff.

But, I’ve also heard plenty of Midnight Syndicate, The Creepshow and HorrorPops, a lot of the various incarnations of Oingo Boingo, a lot of Zombina and the Skeletones, and other modern acts. Also, there’s a few remixes and mashups I can’t help but wonder if he did himself.

And I’ve heard dozens – maybe hundreds – of songs I’ve never heard before, as well as every one of my all time favorites I look forward to every year, plus special surprise treasures I’ve never heard on any other station, like the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from Dead Space, “Put the (Bleeping) Lotion in the Basket”, and the old “Tearing the Heart out of Saturday Night” Joe Bob Briggs MonsterVision promo.

I could keep describing, but, I’ll quote what he said for himself in an interview I found from 2015 on SpookyLittleHalloween.com…. 

“More than 2,000 Halloween tracks currently in the library…more than 1,000 in active rotation at any given time. And hundreds of “others”, as I call them: sound collages I create, TV and movie clips, trailers, educational films cuts, anything non-musical, but Halloween-related. My goal was always to make the stream listenable for long periods of time…without any repeats and always changing.”

The whole interview is worth reading. 

And no commercials! 

Well, except for a couple vintage TV ads for horror-themed toys I’ve heard. 

I do want to comment on how awesome his non-music stuff is. I love the old movie radio spots, and he plays carefully selected clips from Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House album – a Halloween favorite of mine since childhood. There’s even clips from old Arch Oboler radio thrillers and from Peoria Plague – a radio drama from the early 70s. (I doubt most would even recognize it, but I’m into audio theater.) 

My first day listening, I heard clips from some old radio Halloween special that were spread out between songs so there was a continuity further confirming that this isn’t just a huge playlist played on shuffle. One day, he played clips from The Shining throughout the day. As well as what I think was The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – an old Don Knotts movie. A couple weeks later, I started hearing a lot of clips from What We Do in the Shadows. 

And then there was that chilling 911 call he played. 

The entire lineup – music and non-music – is just so beautifully crafted. It’s all these human touches that is my favorite feature of this station. It is a completely different experience from every other station listed here.

Bottom line – this an Internet radio station in the truest sense. What Internet radio CAN be but usually isn’t. A human curator, editor, organizer, presenter. You can almost see him through these selections – hunkered in a closet (yes, really – read the interview), playing a track, which reminds him of another track, which he then adds to the rotation and bookends with related clips. Seemingly always there at the controls, huge library he has an intimate knowledge of at his fingertips, continually tweaking and queuing up just the perfect playlist. 

Like some undead George Gimarc.

Let’s see… Something negative to say… Hmm… 

Well, not all his source materials are of top quality. And I don’t mean because they’re old – I’ve heard plenty of these songs, old and new, that sound great on other stations. (His Voltaire tracks sound terrible, for example.) However, the tracks are at fairly uniform volume and that counts for a lot – it’s not the case with a lot of stations. 

And, depending on what you’re looking for, Dead Air isn’t as one-size-fits-all as HalloweenRadio.net. Some of the punk, truly old stuff, and the truly bizarre would probably cause certain people to tune out. He himself says this station is for long listening. So, no, you can’t count on popular, well-known songs if you only listen a couple hours. 

If you’re having a Halloween party, put on HalloweenRadio.net and within a short time, a party starter like Monster Mash will come on. Before the party is over, your half drunk guests will get to repeatedly shout “GHOSTBUSTERS!!”. And everyone will hear songs they know in between. If you want to listen all month and not hear the same standard songs too many times, like me, go for Dead Air. You’ll get a fascinating and fun journey through the history of Halloween kinda’ music and all the non-music stuff thrown in. 

Anyway, A+, five stars, two thumbs up, etc.. I’ve been as excited about this station as I am once I’ve decorated the house for Halloween. It’s great audio decoration. I have listened to this station nearly non-stop all month. Even sitting in bed on my headphones and via my wife’s Bluetooth speaker in the shower that I barely ever used before. No podcasts, no other stations and that is unheard of for me – usually I have a huge list of Halloween stuff I’m listening to all month.

If he makes a Christmas station, I’m pretty sure I’d be torn away from my annual Xmas in Frisco as I’ve now been torn away from HalloweenRadio.net. 

Halloween Internet Radio

If you’ve never listened to Halloween Internet radio before, this post will hopefully be a good overview. I have been an Internet radio enthusiast for a very long time with eight consecutive Halloweens (as of this writing) of searching out and listening to these sorts of stations. I was passionate for terrestrial radio for many years before that. Sure, music is good, but I loved most finding the unusual stuff. I lived for community radio, college radio, late nights, scanning AM – I filled hundreds of cassettes over the years with stuff I knew I’d only ever hear once. And the unusual always picked up around Christmas and, to a lesser extent, Halloween. I guess I’m kinda’ looking to recreate that experience.

With that said, it should be clear that I have no interest in the “stations” of Pandora, Spotify, etc.. Those aren’t stations – they’re song playlists. And I’m not looking for just music. No matter how good the selections are, it’s a completely different experience than finding that one little weird station that has no listeners but some probably obsessive person has (hopefully) meticulously crafted to perfection. There are tens of thousands of streaming stations out there and the following is all about actual stations, created by humans. Like traditional terrestrial radio but streaming to you via a URL you plug into an Internet radio player. If you’ve never used one, TuneIn is a user-friendly, cross-platform place to start.

Before I begin, let me first define what I mean by Halloween songs. I’ll start by coining a term…

Title keyword songs.

Pretty much ALL Halloween stations play songs that seem to only be in the playlist because they searched for certain keywords and those words appear in the song title yet any meaningful thematic connection to Halloween or horror is practically non-existent. So you get many plays of songs like Superstition, Little Devil, Devil Inside, Beast of Burden, and Zombie. See what I mean? Songs by Stevie Wonder, Neil Sedaka, INXS, The Rolling Stones, The Cranberries, etc. don’t exactly create a Halloween atmosphere, which is, of course, what I put these stations on for.

Sure, there’s also songs like The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Werewolves of London, Don’t Fear the Reaper, and Witchy Woman that fit lyrically, more or less, but so many of those songs are so well known they still just don’t feel like Halloween songs.

Unfortunately, all the above is what MOST Halloween stations call Halloween music and you’ll hear it more than anything.

Secondly, you should know – and I find most people don’t – that there has been a movement in recent years that has given us some Modern Halloween Music – such as the dark fantasy neoclassical music of Midnight Syndicate and Nox Arcana as well as the Halloween Carols of Kristen Lawrence.

Thirdly, I want to clarify that when I mention Halloween oldies, I’m mainly referring to those 50s and 60s novelty records with a horror sort of theme that have been with us forever on Halloween party compilations like Monster Mash, The Blob, Purple People Eater, I Want My Baby Back, Monster’s Holiday, Grim Grinning Ghosts, etc. – you surely know at least a few of them. If you were (or are) a Dr. Demento listener, you’ll also know some of the more obscure songs from that era as well – Dead, Dinner at Drac’s, My Son the Vampire, Zombie Jamboree, and all those.

And finally, there is a whole decades-long middle era between the oldies and the modern that I just expect to be a staple of any Halloween station so I’m not going to mention this content in my notes below. This mostly consists of the more recognizable horror movie themes and selections from the soundtracks of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Little Shop of Horrors, Beetlejuice and the like. As well as appropriate tracks from Gothic and Goth-favorite (or just plain dark) bands like Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, Oingo Boingo, White Zombie. A few stations actually occasionally play psychobilly music. And of course, you’ll get sick of hearing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the Ghostbusters theme, and the handful of scattered novelties like A Nightmare on My Street.

There’s a neverending supply of types of music (and not music) from all of recording history that could end up on a Halloween station but those are the four most heard categories you’ll encounter on these stations. The truly unique stations play more than just those four categories.

With all that said, let’s start with my favorites…

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Dead Air 98.3 FM

This station is newer – I just discovered it in 2016. It’s unlike any other and I’ve enjoyed it so much, it deserves more than a couple paragraphs, so I wrote up a full informational post. The following is a very shortened version…

This station plays pretty much everything all the other stations listed here play, combined.
Old, new, novelty, plus lots of trailers and clips from horror movies, TV shows, and even radio thrillers. No longer stuff, though – he keeps it all pretty standard radio length. Aside from that, it could be described as a compilation of what I love most about HalloweenRadio.net and Steve Kraft’s station but with more personality than either.

And, though it features songs (and not songs) from all the categories the other stations specialize in, there’s much better selections and more variety within those categories than I’ve heard anywhere else.
I’ve heard dozens – maybe hundreds – of recordings I’ve never heard before, as well as every one of my all time favorites I look forward to every year, plus special surprise treasures I’ve never heard on any other station, like the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from Dead Space, “Put the (Bleeping) Lotion in the Basket”, and the old “Tearing the Heart out of Saturday Night” Joe Bob Briggs MonsterVision promo.

The entire lineup – music and non-music – is just so beautifully crafted. It’s all these human touches that is my favorite feature of this station. It is a completely different experience from every other station listed here.

Anyway, A+, five stars, two thumbs up, etc.. I’ve been as excited about this station as I am once I’ve decorated the house for Halloween. It’s great audio decoration. I listened to this station pretty much non-stop in October 2016.
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Which brings me to my other favorites…
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HalloweenRadio.net

This station is nearly perfect in its universality and needs no lengthy description or details. If you need a one-size-fits-all, go-to Halloween radio station, this is it. (Especially if you only want music.) Old songs, new songs, horror movie music, etc.. Though, it also suffers from too many title keyword songs described above.

If you’d rather have soundscapes, they have their atmosphere station and I can vouch that it’s usually really good. Need it to be kid friendly? They have a kids station. Oldies only? They have one of those, too. And they’ve a station that plays nothing but horror movie score pieces.

All of their stations are of professional grade when it comes to sound quality. I can’t think of another station I can say that about. Even at 128k, most stations just don’t sound great.

We kick off every Halloween season with their main station and it gets more play on our stereo during October than any other. So, yeah, it gets an A.

(They seem to be slowly increasing the number of commercials each year, though.)

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Now on to my other long-time favorite…

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Steve Kraft – Halloween Soundtrack

This is more of an ambience/atmosphere station. I mainly listen to it in headphones. For me, it’s perfect for when I don’t just want music.

Rather than try to describe it, I’ll just list what I hear on it…

… Easily half this station’s content is haunted house soundtracks and other horror soundscapes, some playful, some a bit too truly horrifying for my idea of Halloween. The rest is the most diverse collection I’ve yet to hear on any other station…

… Halloween oldies

… Modern Halloween music

… Songs from kids’ Halloween albums, past and present

… Spoken word stories from Poe and the like, many read by Vincent Price

… Speaking of Vincent Price, my Halloween isn’t Halloween without the stuff he did for Caedmon and this station plays all of it

… Movie radio spots from the 40s to the 80s

… Music from horror movies, modern and classic.

… And lots of oddities and curiosities in general.

… And no commercials!

In short, he collects awesome Halloween audio stuff so I don’t have to. His station therefore gets a solid A. I’ve listened to it three or four Halloweens in a row and will every Halloween as long as he keeps the stream going.

(note – he streams some kind of god-awful electronic dance music year-round and switches to Halloween stuff on October 1st.)

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For the rest, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ve been listening to Halloween Internet radio since 2008 and there are many stations. Many come and go, some I see every year. I’m going to focus only on the stations I recognize as available every year. And I’m not gonna do a huge, detailed write up. I’ll spend a day with one station playing – it may or may not get much of my attention during my workday, but as I hear significant things, I’ll jot a note with a plus for positive things, a minus for negative things, and both for stuff I have mixed feelings about. Then I’ll just paste those notes here. As usual, these ‘In my headphones’ posts are mainly for my own reference but posted online in case anyone else can benefit from the info. 

Hopefully, I’ll listen to a bunch of these, make a bunch of notes, and post this in time for the first week of October.

And my plan is to update this list from time to time as I find relevant stations. 


Holidaze Halloween

56k

+psychobilly

+horror movie trailers

too much heavy metal

+Vincent Price Caedmon

+-lots of orchestral stuff

Cult Radio A-Go-Go – Halloween Radio Spooktacular

+128k

+-more spoken word, radio dramas, and soundscapes than music

+Those just plain odd 1962 readings of Poe by Richard Taylor that I love

+-narrated stories – some kinda too long, but still atmospheric

heavy metal

title keyword songs

+music from horror movies

the volume tends to vary between tracks

+-lots of (often long) tv/movie clips but not always obviously Halloween/Horror-related

+-Horror podcasts

++plenty of weird little odds and ends

Big R Radio – The Halloween Channel

+128k

this station seems to just alternate between Midnight Syndicate and title keyword songs – the one then the other – with occasional old novelty song and a few tracks from horror movie scores

+oddly enough, I actually find the PSAs they play are usually enjoyable

Scared to Death Haunted House Ride Radio

I only recall seeing this one the last couple years. And they don’t have a website that I can find.

UPDATE – As of October 2016, I cannot find this station anywhere. I will leave the info here for now so I won’t have to rewrite it if they come back. 

+128k

+fewer title keyword songs than most stations

+psychobilly

+no commercials

+music from horror movies (kind of a lot, actually)

the volume can vary drastically between tracks to the point that it pretty much ruins what is otherwise a really great station

+-several White/Rob Zombie songs

+a pretty unique playlist – I’ve heard several things I haven’t heard on other stations

+occasional soundscapes

+more Voltaire than most stations

++Walt Disney’s Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House

… I absolutely love this station but the drastic volume changes make it a station I can’t just leave playing

The Orphans | 2016 | Zachary Fortais-Gomm

​Not much to say about this one.

Seven episodes of 16 to 24 minutes each, except the 37min finale.

This is very well made. What I wish more audio theater sounded like. But, the story just didn’t do it for me. Not badly written, probably, just not my thing. Yet, so well made, it’s hard to rate it badly.

Conundrum.

So, here’s what I’ll do… I’ll give it a C+, won’t keep a copy for myself, but I’m probably gonna share this one with my family. They might enjoy it more than I did.

The Orphans is a Sci-Fi Audio Drama series focusing on the survivors of a crashed space ship. They have no memory, and no way out. As the group is slowly being hunted, they must work to understand their mysterious arrival on this planet.

Wormwood | 2007-2010 | Habit Forming Films, David Accampo & Jeremy Rogers

It’s taken me a couple months to listen to this entire saga. 53 episodes, if I counted correctly. I didn’t listen to any of the Postmortems or the spoken text Five Fingers of Glory stories, nor did I read any of the published materials. Perhaps I do the entire creation a disservice, but I’m an audio theater guy. At least, that’s what I show up for. Something enveloping to listen to while I work.

This show is very uneven. I’ve been thinking of all the reasons why it turned out that way, but, I’m not gonna bother writing out my theories. It’s enough to say I found it uneven. Sometimes it’s a great show, sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes it strikes me as campy in that it has several positive elements but laughably bad production, other times it sounds very well made but it’s wasted on a pointless script and what I assume is bad directing.
And I must admit I kinda zoned out during the last season. So, I’m gonna grade on a curve here…

There is so much worth hearing when everything works that I think it is arguably worth listening to the whole thing. Mainly for the characters of Crowe and Sparrow and Arthur Russell’s performance of the former.
So, I’m gonna give this uneven production my first uneven score and give it a B- but have no intention to ever listen to it again. I strongly considered giving it a C+ to tip just barely into the positive half of the rating scale, but it just deserves better than that. And, again, I suspect that the final season was better than I noticed, since as I said, I’d kinda lost interest.

I am pasting my full notes I took below, after the link. If you want to know more of what I thought as I listened, I encourage you to read them. But, the bottom line is what I’ve posted above.

Wormwood – A Serialized Mystery

Doctor Xander Crowe was a formidable psychologist until a terrible tragedy sent him spiraling down the dark pathways of the occult. Now, a strange vision leads Doctor Crowe to the hidden town of Wormwood, where shadows lurk in every corner and evil stains the souls of the inhabitants. Welcome to Wormwood.

And, here’s all the notes I took while listening…

A whopping 24 episodes of 20-30 minutes each in the first season. Season 2 has 23 eps that average 30 each.

Note – There’s a lot of blog posts on this feed. And teasers, trailers, behind the scenes stuff.
I took this show, as I’ve taken all shows I’ve posted about here, at face value only. Only the episodes themselves. The show on its own two feet, as it were. I’m not saying that’s fair, just saying that’s how I do audio theater. I’m a stay at home dad, I work most of the day, I have my headphones in, I listen to a lot of stuff. I’m not saying I never go to the site or read about the show – I’m just saying what matters to me is the show itself.

To say this is an uneven production is understatement.
Some great dialogue, then camp film dialogue. Compelling story, then utter plot confusion (at least on my end). Horrible sound design, then very good placement of music. A great character, but dialogue recording so bad that it’s distracting.

It’s definitely low budget. But not even that excuses things like hollow log, recorded-in-a-bathroom voices with chirping birds or playing children to let you know this is an outdoor scene.(!?)

But, I’m continually eager to hear more. I wouldn’t say I’m forgiving it’s massive flaws – more like there’s enough good stuff that I’m willing to stick around to see if they get the problems fixed.
Doctor Xander Crowe is a brilliantly written character, flawlessly performed by Arthur Russell. Seriously, one of the best performances I’ve ever heard and anytime a scene has him, I’m prepared to give this show an A++.

After finishing season one, my judgment could be summarized as saying it’s junk food. It’s easy to just keep listening – it’s fairly addictive (Habit Forming?), even if the flaws are obvious. Maybe an audio cult classic? I have daily been eager to hear more and I don’t always feel that way as I listen through a long-form show. And I’m excited as I begin season two.

It seems they used different dialogue recording techniques for season two as the actors sound MUCH better.

As of ep5 of s2, I’m underwhelmed by this season. I was prepared to give s1 at least a B-, but this is mostly D material now. The story just isn’t grabbing me. And Dr. Crowe has become a minor character. At production values this low, if you don’t got character and you don’t got story, you got nothing.

After ep10, I still feel this way. I’d bail if I weren’t already invested. I’ve been putting off this show for a couple years so I want to at least finish it.
Or maybe it’s just me? Maybe the novelty wore off or something?

As of episode 15, there’s been enough Crowe and Sparrow that I’m not exactly dragging myself through the last couple episodes.

Heading into the last couple episodes of s2, I do feel I’m dragging myself through and not excited about s3. And I’m think that lately, even when Crowe gets a scene, it’s not as well written. Perhaps it’s unfair to think “no Crowe, no show” but I do find myself much less interested in the other characters, to varying degrees.

I am enjoying the season 3 Wormwood Portraits episodes more than I enjoyed much of season 2.

I’m very confused and disappointed by the dual casting choice in The Lover’s Tale.

The Portraits episodes make me more interested in the characters… Perhaps if one were to start with these, the first two seasons would be richer.

King Falls AM | 2015, Ongoing | Make Believe Picture Company

I have listened to 20 episodes of this – then again with my wife – and haven’t jotted down a single note about it.

But I can’t. stop. listening.

It’s great. It’s endless fun. No serious story here – just lots and lots of fun. I won’t even say it’s hilarious, though it is certainly a comedy. FUN is the word I keep thinking as I listen. And the whole thing is very well done – sound design, writing, characters, dialogue, acting, everything.

Everything I love about Chatterbox-FM
(an in-game talk radio station in the game Grand Theft Auto 3 that I need to make a post about) and Art Bell, with great touches of Northern Exposure and other “new guy in a weird town” stories.
But, there’s the thing. They’re not trying to make one long storyline with every i dotted and t crossed. That frees them from having to hit every trope the subgenre usually contains.

The set up is a late night talk show on a radio station in a microscopic town with some supernatural shenaniganery. But, we only hear twenty minutes every couple weeks or so. And the show’s chronology is parallel to ours (episodes are released every two weeks(ish) and two weeks have passed in the story), so, we don’t hear everything and we don’t know everything – the back stories, every detail, full explanations, etc.. You just hear a piece. The imagination has unlimited room to run and play. I love that about this show. Rather than try to build an airtight universe, they let YOU take an active part in the stories, as it were. They leave a lot of room for theorizing – hell, WONDERING. It’s a show keeps you thinking when you’re done listening and be delighted when they revisit something that was brought up before and give more details.

I just love this show.

So, yeah, I’m gonna give it a solid A.
Since this is an ongoing show, I’m gonna have to listen along as new episodes are released – a first for me. But, I definitely will.

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I can’t find a full, official description, so I’ll adapt my own from various sources…

King Falls AM

King Falls AM centers on a lonely little mountain town’s late-night AM talk radio show and its paranormal, peculiar happenings and inhabitants.

New episodes on the 1st & 15th!

Transmissions from Colony One – Season 3 | 2015 | John W. Richter

I previously listened to seasons one and two and summarized my opinion of them as follows…

I give it a solid C. It does most everything right that it set out to do but I just didn’t care for it.

This third season is very different from the first two. First of all, the episodes are longer. Season one episodes averaged 9 minutes, most season two episodes are between 12 and 14 minutes but season three’s ten episodes are at least 23 minutes and go up to 40 minutes.

I took ALOT of notes/thoughts/jots on this show, so I’ll just paste them below rather than wordsmith a full writeup and, therefore, the following will be a bit disjointed.

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OK, that EVA scene in the first episode (starts about 8:45) is horrifying and chilling. Well acted, perfectly written – even the music and sound design. Just wow.

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This show got really good all of a sudden? Maybe it’s the longer episode running times – a more detailed story can be told. On the other hand, it’s not the story, per se, that’s got me hooked. It’s mainly the character interactions that kept me listening five episodes – half the season – in a single sitting. (Well, standing and working, but you know what I mean.)

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I still can’t imagine listening to this at a pace of less than a half hour every couple/few weeks.
Though, in all fairness, I’m not listening to any currently produced fictional podcast as they are released. I’m still catching up on all the great stuff released over the years that I was absent from modern audio theater. Therefore, I have the luxury of (and have therefore formed an addiction to) only binge listening entire shows.

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They need to abandon the found footage gimmick. It’s becoming unbelievable how much is caught on microphones. Or they should at least explain it better. But, once they add music, I can’t help but wonder why they don’t just started doing natural audio. Other than they’re kinda stick with the gimmick now. (Though, there is the rare breaks from it, like in episode ten in the command assignments scene.)

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It was episode six that I gave in and decided I probably love this. And want to start over again with season one when I finish.
Though, in eps seven and eight, I started to feel like certain inevitabilities were being artificially drawn out. Stretching credulity isn’t necessarily a crime, but, they’re kinda overdoing it. Plenty of drama, yes, but maybe at the expense of logic just to ensure the episodes hit their full running time and that they’d have a full ten episodes. Or maybe they had too many scenes they wanted to fit in at the cost of sensible storytelling.
As you can probably tell, it’s difficult to comment on this and remain spoiler-free.

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As of episode nine, I’ve noticed a pattern…
I have these chilling moments when I’m blown away and swearing this is a truly great show. But, then there’s other times I’m in disbelief at certain story and character choices or even just bored, asking myself what I ever saw in this show. And episode nine has some criminally credulity-stretching moments. Yet, I’m loving this episode. And how. I’m not even sure how I’ll rate this.

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So, there it is.
I’m gonna err on the side of enthusiasm and give this third season a B+ and I really want to listen to all three seasons again.

Transmissions from Colony One

Transmissions From Colony One is a radio drama set in the near-future of 2057. Twenty years prior, United States President Richard Thorpe (R-CO) announced the start of a “New Dawn,” a global attitude shift toward widespread space exploration. Technological advents such as fusion energy, worldwide high-speed railway systems, and internet speeds faster than ever envisioned laid the groundwork for an economic explosion, but it lacked a platform on which to occur. Thorpe gave the world an outlet for its immense wealth, asking people across the world to simply look up for humanity’s future.

In the twenty years since, the world has changed drastically. MECTI (Mars Exploration, Colonization and Terraformation Initiative) was established with the goal of starting a permanent human presence on Mars. This meant using fusion-propelled rocketry, the construction of a massive space elevator to make transportation from the surface of Earth to low orbit more cost and energy-efficient, and the creation of a mammoth space station that would dwarf today’s International Space Station. All of these things needed to be done in order for MECTI to work. Now, twenty years after the birth of MECTI, the first crew, MECTI-1, is about to land on the surface of Mars, in the flat expansive region of Amazonis Planitia. This will be the first manned mission to the surface of Mars, and the first of thousands of MECTI manned missions to the Red Planet.

Star Wars – In the Shadows | 2010 | Dany Pépin, Creative Audioscape Productions

Six fortyish-minute episodes.

The acting is mostly subpar. The dialogue recording is nothing special. And the characters come across as two dimensional – at least to me.
The many and various rip offs from the films are egregious. Like someone rewriting their favorite moments, quotes, character elements, etc..
And I was repeatedly annoyed by how many sound effects from the films were used but in the wrong places. Whirrs, chirps, beeps that I immediately identify with certain devices, machines, control panels and the like yet used for something else. The interrogation machine from the first film that Vader brings into Leia’s cell, for instance. It makes a very unique whirring sound never repeated in the series, as far as I recall, yet this production uses it several times, in several settings. That’s distracting. Sure, this sort of thing ensures an aural consistency with a well-known universe (that was presumably their intention, anyway) BUT that intention fails when even a casual fan like myself identifies all these sounds, yet is expected to not notice the reassignment of them.

Halfway through the third episode, I became certain that this story wasn’t gonna grab me.

All that being said, this is well made. The mixing, editing, and other sound design choices really work, aside from what I’ve said above. For instance, the barroom brawl broken up in episode four, the protagonists flying away toward the end of the first episode, the aerial battles in episode six. I’d like to hear more stuff by Dany Pépin. Maybe as director but not writer. Maybe as writer using his own ideas – not playing in someone else’s universe.

This production wasn’t torture but I had more than a few “does this show ever end?!” moments.
I’m giving it a D+ because it was mostly well made but the rest was pretty bad and have no intention of ever listening through it again.

BTW, I love promos for other shows tacked onto stuff I’m listening to. This has that, so, yay.

Star Wars: In The Shadows

Born and raised in a military family, Emma Wermis will slowly discover that the Empire is not what she always been taught it was. Her allegiance to the Empire will be tested and she will, during her adventures, uncover something about her family and a secret weapon kept hidden even within the Empire.

The Byron Chronicles | 2005 to 2015 | Eric Busby

I finally got around to listening this. I decided that Halloween month was a good excuse to do so. Especially since it’s coming to an end.

This is an audio comic book.
That’s the short version.

It kinda breaks my heart to post the rest of my thoughts. I know Eric Busby is a respected name in modern audio theater. And I’ve been meaning for a long time to listen through this and was ready to love it.
But, I don’t love it.

There’s no denying it’s a cool universe/mythos. (Though, it owes a lot to Doctor Who and Underworld and doesn’t bother to hide it very well.) The sound design is good enough most of the time to take me into that world. The music is a great touch (when usually I’d complain about so much music) and the effects usually get the job done, though many are obviously from free sound effects libraries. But, they’re mixed well so I don’t think about it much. It’s an experience that’s more immersive and atmospheric than most stuff out there.

Much of the casting is disappointing. Strictly amateur hour. Most of the acting is pretty unremarkable – sometimes just bad – but David Ault is at his most dull here. I’ve heard him in a few things and he’s just kinda boring. I often wonder if he’s the only English accent for hire in American low budget audio theater. What he does is reciting lines but not really performing. And that’s even more true in this show than usual. I think it’s supposed to be the character’s flat affect? But that’s not what it sounds like to me.

The character of Byron doesn’t interest me much, either. The writer gives him plenty of dialogue but it’s written rather blandly. Not really any depth or nuance. Though, most of everyone’s dialogue is pretty color-by-numbers and predictable. That doesn’t give him or anyone else much to work with. But, I think the character is written inconsistently. For instance, how much time he spends explaining himself to other characters. Yet so much of the rest of the time, he’s written as someone who wouldn’t bother explaining himself to people. Since these are his chronicles that he himself is writing, the information could have been given to us that way – in the form of narration – and it would be more consistent with the character, I think. (To be clear, descriptive narration is used quite a bit and I applaud that but expository narration is used much less.)
Oh yeah, and Byron seems genuinely unlikable. And that makes me disinterested. He’s not a cool antihero or even intriguingly dark – he’s just kind of an ass hole. His smart-ass demeanor is probably supposed to come across as wit. But, as someone says in 2.10, “Your melancholic enigma routine doesn’t work on me!”
Yeah, me neither.

Even with all that said, though, there’s still a lot to like. It does a lot well. I’ve pretty much listed everything bad about it above. The dislike I felt toward the central character and the actor playing him just can’t be ignored, no matter how much else is done well. But I certainly didn’t hate it. I give it a C- just to barely tip the rating to the negative half of the scale. It was a mostly satisfying way to spend my Halloween month listening but once was enough.

Episodes 1.01-4.04
Episodes 4.05-5.10

Imagine if the world as you know it… was nothing more than an illusion. What if creatures like elves, dragons, vampire, zombies and werewolves walk amongst you every day… But you never see them. This is the world I walk in. I am called Byron and these are my chronicles.

A Canticle for Leibowitz | 1981 | WHA Radio/Wisconsin Public Radio

Note – I’ve been trying to have people’s names in the title but try Googling this production and you’ll find all kinds of somewhat conflicting information about who exactly was behind it. Adapted by John Reeves? Or is his name John Reed? Karl or Carl Schmidt directed. But all sources I read agreed that it was produced at WHA for Wisconsin Public Radio and it was aired and probably funded at least partially by NPR.

This is probably my fourth time listening to this.
When October starts, I’m gonna try to listen through the entire series of The Byron Chronicles since it’s sure to be a great Halloween month choice and it’s apparently ending soon. Until then, I have to fill a few days of headphones time so I’m revisiting one of my all time favorites.

15 not-quite-a-half-hour episodes, divided into 3 large parts, set hundreds of years apart from one another.

My favorite is part one – the first five episodes. Poetic, hushed, minimal. The dialogue, effects, and even the score are all so subdued, I can just imagine the director repeating “shhh” as his most used direction. I find these episodes calming and soothing.
Until it’s not.
And those moments jostle the senses after mentally leaning in to listen closer for so much of the time.
The second and third parts have a lot more of this. This is a post-apocalyptic story and each of the three parts is further along in the rebuilding of society. The amount of sound effects increases accordingly.

As for the production as a whole, the acting is so natural I always forget to judge the acting. The sound effects are excellent. The writing is also nearly flawless. The story is adapted from a novel but the script itself is perfectly written – great pacing, great dialogue, and good amounts of nuance and subtlety. Again, the script writer can only take a certain amount of credit but I certainly admire his selections from the source material – it doesn’t feel abridged. This is a big story of global changes over many, many centuries of time, yet told through a small, personal story (three, actually) so it is still emotional with few and therefore rich and believable characters.
Perhaps the most vital ingredient is the narrator. I am a firm believer in using a narrator in audio presentations. Many productions I’ve heard and thought were deeply flawed, I also thought could have been saved by use of a narrator. And the narrator for this show is perfect.
It all combines to make what is possibly my single favorite production I’ve ever heard. This is nothing less than a masterpiece of audio theater.

Needless to say, I give this an A+ and have my own copy of it in my stash. (Which, btw, is better quality than what you’ll find at the link below. If you want a copy, contact me via one of the methods over on the sidebar.)

A Canticle for Leibowitz
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A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer Walter M. Miller, Jr., first published in 1960. Based on three short stories Miller contributed to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, it is the only novel published by the author during his lifetime. Considered one of the classics of science fiction, it has never been out of print and has seen over 25 reprints and editions. Appealing to mainstream and genre critics and readers alike, it won the 1961 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.
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Set in a Roman Catholic monastery in the desert of the southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man’s scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it.
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Inspired by the author’s participation in the Allied bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino during World War II, the novel is considered a masterpiece by literary critics. It has been compared favorably with the works of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Walker Percy, and its themes of religion, recurrence, and church versus state have generated a significant body of scholarly research.
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This 15 part serial is based on the novel by Walter M. Miller, Jr. published in 1959. The story had previously been published as a series of novellas in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science. The book won the Hugo award winner for best science fiction novels of all time.
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The radio drama adaptation by John Reed, and produced at WHA by Carl Schmidt and Marv Nunn.
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The play was directed by Karl Schmidt, engineered by Marv Nunn with special effects by Vic Marsh.
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Narrator – Carol Collins and includes Fred Coffin, Bart Hayman, Herb Hartig and Russel Horton.
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Music was by Greg Fish and Bob Budney and the Edgewood College Chant Group.

Doctor Who – Eighth Doctor Adventures – Season One | 2007 | Big Finish/BBC

These are so well made. The recording techniques, overall sound design, acting, etc. are great and natural. And the writing is really good.

But, it didn’t really hold me spellbound or anything. I enjoyed it, but once was enough. I’m giving it a B- and not keeping a copy on hand for future listens. And that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve repeat listenings – it certainly does. I think I’d rather listen to more Doctor Who than listen to this again. So, I’m going to move on to season two. If I feel more strongly about it – negatively or positively – I’ll make another post or add to this one.

Doctor Who – Eighth Doctor Adventures

‘Recently, on TV, we saw how the Paul McGann Doctor died – now it’s time to find out how he lived.’ Steven Moffat

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) is an enthusiastic figure who explores the universe for the sheer love of it: though always ready to tackle problems when they arise, he relies on brilliant improvisation rather than elaborate plans.

He is passionate, direct, sympathetic and emotionally accessible, yet this is balanced by occasional feelings of self-doubt and weariness of his endless battles against evil.

In this series of full-cast audiobooks, many broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra, he is accompanied on his travels by the feisty and fabulous Lucie Miller, played by Sheridan Smith, Tamsin Drew (Niky Wardley) and, most recently, Molly O’Sullivan, played by Ruth Bradley.