As Radiohead prepare to enter the studio in September to begin work on the follow-up to 2011’s The King of Limbs, the band released a surprise update to their “exploratory audio-visual” PolyFauna app on September 1. Whereas the first version of the app, released in February 2014, used samples and imagery from The King of Limbs, this update features all-new atmospheric soundscapes and trippy terrains. The music itself, which often features Thom Yorke harmonizing with the beats, is unfamiliar to Radiohead fans, and could hint at what the group has planned as they start work on their ninth studio album.
Recently, Yorke tweeted out dozens of photos of the PolyFauna update along with sketches of the some of the worlds he, producer Nigel Godrich, Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood, and digital arts studio Universal Imagery had envisioned. The immersive app, inspired by Björk’s Biophilia project, drops the user into alien worlds that are fully navigable. After exploring each landscape, the user must chase after a warp that will teleport them to yet another strange, colorful terrain. The latest version of PolyFauna is much more fluid than its predecessor, but it still drains the phone battery at an incredible rate.
As for Radiohead, guitarist Jonny Greenwood revealed back in March, “We’re meeting up at the end of the summer, and we’ll make a plan. But, you know, we’re a slow-moving animal, always have been. I guess we’ll decide then what we do next.” In July, Greenwood added that he and Yorke had already begun emailing song ideas to one another in anticipation of the September sessions.
Nearly every member of Radiohead took advantage of the group’s hiatus following the release of The King of Limbs: Thom Yorke’s side project Atoms for Peace released their album Amok, drummer Philip Selway recorded his second solo LP Weatherhouse that arrives in October, and guitarist Jonny Greenwood contributed the score to director Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. This past week, Yorke made a surprise DJ appearance at Los Angeles’ Roosevelt Hotel, the first time the frontman had spun at the venue since 2009, around the time Radiohead was recording The King of Limbs at the Los Angeles home of actress Drew Barrymore.