Kid A is the fourth studio album by the English rock band Radiohead, released on 2 October 2000 by Parlophone. Burnt out after promoting Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer, songwriter Thom Yorke envisioned a radical change in direction. Radiohead replaced their rock sound with synthesisers, drum machines, the ondes Martenot, string orchestras and brass instruments, incorporating influences from genres such as electronic music, krautrock, jazz, and 20th-century classical music. They recorded Kid A with OK Computer producer Nigel Godrich in Paris, Copenhagen, Gloucestershire and their hometown Oxford, England. The sessions produced over 20 tracks; Radiohead saved many of them for their subsequent album, Amnesiac, released the following year.
Kid A is influenced by 1990s IDM artists Autechre and Aphex Twins, along with others on Warp Records; by Björk, particularly Homogenic, whose song “Unravel” was Yorke’s favorite and is occasionally performed as an intro to “Everything in Its Right Place”; by 1970s Krautrock bands such as Can; and by the jazz of Charles Mingus, Alice Coltrane and Miles Davis.
During the recording period Radiohead drew inspiration from Remain in Light (1980) by their early influence Talking Heads, they attended an Underworld concert which helped renew their enthusiasm in a difficult moment and band members listened to abstract hip hop from the Mo’Wax label, including Blackalicious and DJ Krush.
The string orchestration for “How to Disappear Completely” was influenced by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Jonny Greenwood’s use of the ondes Martenot on this and several other Kid A songs was inspired by Olivier Messiaen, who popularised the early electronic instrument and was one of Greenwood’s teenage heroes. “Idioteque” samples two computer music pieces, Paul Lansky‘s “Mild Und Leise” and Arthur Kreiger’s “Short Piece”. Both samples were taken from Electronic Music Winners, a 1976 experimental music LP which Jonny Greenwood had stumbled upon while the band was working on Kid A.
Thom Yorke also referred to electronic dance music when talking about “Idioteque”, and said that the song was “an attempt to capture that exploding beat sound where you’re at the club and the PA‘s so loud, you know it’s doing damage”.
“Motion Picture Soundtrack” (a song written before “Creep”) was an attempt to emulate the soundtrack of 1950s Disney films.
Yorke recorded it alone on a pedal organ and other band members added sampled harp and double bass sounds.
Jonny Greenwood described his interest in mixing old and new music technology, and during the recording sessions Yorke read Ian MacDonald‘s Revolution in the Head, which chronicles the Beatles’ recordings with George Martin during the 1960s. The band also sought to combine electronic manipulations with jam sessions in the studio, stating their model was the German group Can.
Kid A has been sometimes characterised as post-rock, due to a minimalist style and focus on texture. It has also been described as electronica, electronic rock, ambient and experimental rock. Jonny Greenwood’s guitar solos are less prominent on Kid A than on previous Radiohead albums; however, guitars were still used on most tracks.
The instrumental “Treefingers” was created by digitally processing recordings of Ed O’Brien’s guitar to create an ambient sound. In addition, some of Yorke’s vocals on Kid A are heavily modified by digital effects; Yorke’s vocals on the title track were simply spoken, then vocoded with the ondes Martenot to create the melody.
1. “Everything in Its Right Place” – 4:11
2. “Kid A” – 4:44
3. “The National Anthem” – 5:51
4. “How to Disappear Completely” – 5:56
5. “Treefingers” – 3:42
6. “Optimistic” – 5:15
7. “In Limbo” – 3:31
8. “Idioteque” (Radiohead, Paul Lansky, Arthur Kreiger) – 5:09
9. “Morning Bell” – 4:35
10. “Motion Picture Soundtrack” (includes an untitled hidden track) – 7:01
All tracks written by Radiohead (Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Jonny Greenwood, Philip Selway, Thom Yorke), except where noted.
- Additional musicians
- Andy Bush – trumpet
- Andy Hamilton – tenor saxophone (credited as “tenor horn”)
- Steve Hamilton – alto saxophone (credited as “alto horn”)
- Stan Harrison – baritone saxophone (etc.)
- Martin Hathaway – alto saxophone
- Mike Kearsey – bass trombone
- Liam Kerkman – trombone
- Mark Lockheart – tenor saxophone
- Orchestra of St John’s – strings
- John Lubbock – conductor
- Paul Lansky – sample of “Mild und Leise” on “Idioteque”
- Arthur Kreiger – sample of “Short Piece” on “Idioteque”
- Nigel Godrich – producer, engineering, mixing
- Henry Binns – rhythm sampling on “The National Anthem”
- Chris Blair – mastering
- Graeme Stewart – engineering
- Gerard Navarro – engineering
Released: 2 October 2000
Recorded: January 1999 – April 2000
Genre: Electronica, experimental, post-rock, ambient
Label – Parlophone Records