It’s almost quaint to think that Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac albums were considered such esoteric, difficult listening twenty years ago. With the benefit of hindsight they are simply part of the natural progression in sound from The Bends to the beloved OK Computer, doubling down on that album’s themes of alienation and pressure. With the recent Kid A Mnesia reissue combining both albums into a long player, they’re now officially as inextricable as they already were in the minds of many fans. And with this comes Kid A Mnesia: Exhibition, an exploration of art, music, and mood as produced for and evoked by what are arguably Radiohead’s two most polarising pieces.
Taking the form of the expected walking simulator, you’re dropped into a sketchy, scratchy white forest. Following a red light, you’ll find your way into a Radiohead museum of sorts, as the somehow comforting electronic tones of 'Everything in its Right Place' begin to serenade you. And from there, it’s a deep dive into two seminal albums, with the various hallways and paths populated by interactive exhibits based on classic songs from the two records, their B-sides and the bonus tracks and deeper cuts from the Kid A Mnesia bonus disc.
Initially we had some misgivings about the game, being as it is essentially advertising – QR codes spread throughout the museum somewhat crassly lead to Radiohead merch – but it delivers above and beyond what you’d expect or even want from a free-of-charge tie-in for a reissue. Every area is inspired by and/or soundtracked to a song from the band. There’s the paranoia-tinged 'The National Anthem' room full of televisions and a telephone box that screams Thom Yorke’s distorted vocals at you, the towering pillar of a room with the desolate, raw cut of 'Kid A' soundtracking it, the shifting room of concept art built around 'In Limbo'... there’s too much to detail all of it, with drawings, writings, and visuals completely surrounding you at all times.
The game, such as it is, plays its real ace when you read the centrepiece, a space combining 'How to Disappear Completely', 'Pyramid Song', and 'You and Whose Army' into one expansive, terrifying journey into the abyss. The space you’re left in following this descent is absolutely nightmarish, one of the most frightening short sequences we’ve ever seen in a game; some may find this laughable but the effect of those three songs — three of Radiohead’s best and most evocative tracks — followed by the fractious Kid A Mnesia reworking of 'Like Spinning Plates', is downright haunting stuff.
All the better to be experienced in VR, which – bafflingly – you can’t. We’re at a loss as to why that is, but even without that extra layer of immersion we can’t remember the last time we experienced a piece of software so atmospheric. Of course, it helps that we’re fans of the band, but even a newbie to their work should find something to appreciate here aesthetically and/or sonically. It’s a marvellous showcase for some marvellous artists and shockingly generous for the low, low price of £0.00.
Have you tried Kid A Mnesia: Exhibition? Are you a big Radiohead fan? Try to remember in the comments section below.