Radiohead have been one of the best bands on the planet since the mid-90s, managing the rare trick of being eclectic and experimental while at the same time enjoying huge commercial success. The band has always been quite Internet-centric: the 2000 album Kid A, a major part of this new hard-to-pigeonhole project, saw the band step back from the traditional press almost entirely in favour of a website, dozens of 10-second video clips, and an early streaming tool called iBlip. The cherry on top, of course, was when it got leaked several weeks beforehand on Napster.
It was announced in September that Radiohead would be bringing the Kid A Mnesia exhibition to Mac and PC, and it is now available to download for free. As you can see from the above launch trailer, it looks like not a very nice place to be! The press blurb describes it as "an upside-down digital/analogue universe created from original artwork by Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood and sound design by Nigel Godrich to commemorate 21 years of Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac albums." At least it didn't call it a metaverse.
Radiohead's Thom Yorke even popped up on the Playstation blog (it's on PS5 as well) with some thoughts. The project apparently began as an idea for a physical exhibition in London, memorably described thus: "This astounding steel carapace would be inserted into the urban fabric of London like an ice pick into Trotsky. Jutting up into the grey English sky."
The band ran into various problems with the installation and planning permissions before Covid "delivered the final annihilation," writes Yorke. "Our dream was dead. Until we realised… It would be way better if it didn’t actually exist. Because then it didn’t have to conform to any normal rules of an exhibition. Or reality. Much better."
The band worked on this over two years alongside longtime producer Nigel Godrich, computer artist Sean Evans, set designer Christine Jones, and developers [namethemachine] and Arbitrarily Good Productions, as well as Epic Games themselves.
The guiding principle of this is "no new work" because "there was loads of it already," writes Yorke. "Everything that we built came directly from what we made 20 years ago, in one way or another. And we had all the multitrack recordings from the albums so we were able to rebuild the audio from the original elements in a new controlled space which wasn’t just stereo. That was a lot of fun.
"What we have made is… it’s something like a mutant re-engineering of Kid A and Amnesiac. But that’s enough now. Enough!! It’s all yours…"
Kid A Mnesia is a larger project, with the audio side being a re-release of Kid A (2000) and Amnesia (2001), alongside a third disc of B-sides and previously unreleased material from the same era. The albums were recorded simultaneously, with the band at one point considering releasing the material as a double album, before spacing things out a bit.
You can download the Kid A Mnesia exhibition here.