App Appeal: Explore strange worlds in Radiohead’s app Polyfauna

Radiohead collaborated on the experimental app Polyfauna, set in alien worlds. Credit: Provided
Radiohead collaborated on the experimental app Polyfauna, set in alien worlds.
Credit: Provided

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS and Android

For their last two albums, Radiohead offered the option to buy them for whatever price fans wanted. Now they have a free app. We’re not sure how the band makes money, except that they don’t really need to ever again.

Created with the design firm Universal Everything, Polyfauna is an experimental app. How experimental? It doesn’t come with instructions. It’s like the old computer game “Myst,” which also allows you to explore faintly alien, magical worlds. But there’s no mission, apart from exploring all that it has to offer, which you do by moving, shifting and tilting your phone, and pointing it in certain directions (while looking to onlookers like you’ve lost all your faculties).

There is one instruction: “Follow the [floating red dot].” Doing so (if you can find it and successfully woo it) sends you into each new miniworld, offering fresh, pleasingly low-res landscapes dotted with trees and mountains and speckled with rain and looming debris. You can doodle on the screen; in fact, the app will let you do whatever you like, provided you’re into a meditative time-suck that plays soundscapes taken from the sessions for Radiohead’s last album, “The King of Limbs.”

Even though this is a joint effort with a design firm, Polyfauna is very much about the band, and carrying on their apparent interest in getting away from classical strong structure — and emotional odes to fragility — and into something more abstract, even inhuman. Once a downer band, whose anthems acquired them millions of disaffected, sensitive followers, they seem to be growing up by getting weirder. Polyfauna resembles the artwork of their albums, but minus the humanity. Its pure texture and faintly recognizable worlds to provide little but mind-clearing escape. It essentially just is, and for a band who no longer have anything to prove, that’s a step in the right direction.


Wake Up & Smell the Bacon
Platform: iOS
Price: Free

The app-verse teems with designer alarm programs that seek to do more — although usually less — than the one that came with your smartphone. But only one wakes you to the smell of bacon sizzling on a griddle. Made by no less than Oscar Mayer through its Institute for the Advancement of Bacon (which is a thing, evidently), Wake Up & Smell the Bacon is a new app that wakes you not with a deafening, irritating noise, but with the crackle of cured pig bouncing atop a hot skillet in its fatty juices. Here’s the crazy part: It also simulates the smell of bacon, though that requires an add-on with a scent spray. (It’s reloadable, just in case you use this more than once.) All that’s missing is actual bacon. It’s kind of a tease, frankly.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


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