In typical Radiohead fashion, the band unexpectedly released an app for Android and iOS devices on Tuesday called PolyFauna. The app was developed by Radiohead and Universal Everything, a U.K.-based digital art and design studio.
According to a blog post by lead singer Thom Yorke, the app was born out of “early computer life-experiments and the imagined creatures of our subconscious.” The look of the app should be familiar to fans of Stanley Donwood, the artist behind Radiohead’s album covers. And in the background you’ll hear ever-changing loops from “Bloom,” a track from Radiohead’s 2011 album King of Limbs.
The app itself is basically what you make of it. You float endlessly around an evolving landscape. Tilting your phone will show you more of the strange land, and swiping your finger across the screen will create a drawing that you can then pass through or leave behind. You can go on like this forever, or you can follow a little red dot that appears from time to time. Get close enough and you’ll be drawn into a new world, with a new look and sound. Then do the same thing again and again.
PolyFauna reminds me a little of Bjork’s 2011 app Biophilia. But whereas Biophilia was a series of apps designed around an album, PolyFauna is its own little universe built around fractured clips from one song. And it’s quite enveloping — I just spent nearly half an hour floating around when all I was planning to do was grab a few quick screenshots.
It might not be a new Radiohead album, but PolyFauna is equal parts apocalyptic, futuristic, mesmerizing, paranoid and layered. In other words, it’s the next best thing.