Michael O'Mahony


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Talkbox is multidisciplinary artist Michael O’Mahony’s third album and his first for 33-33. It’s his most complete and cohesive music project to date, a culmination of ideas, happy accidents and compositions that have been cut up and re-arranged over many years.

The album’s sonic signature is the Vocaloid software synthesizer – the titular ‘talkbox’ – famously marketed by Japanese cartoon Hatsune Miku. O’Mahony became aware of Vocaloid in 2015 through the popular Nyan Cat meme, which employs the software. Excited by the emotive potential and realism of Vocaloid’s voice synthesis, he began to imagine an album that combined its capabilities with italo disco- and UK garage-inflected sounds.

As the version of Vocaloid O’Mahony had access to sang only in Japanese, O’Mahony relied on Google Translate to obtain the required characters to enter into the software. In early experiments with the software, the north Londoner translated BBC match reports from his beloved Arsenal FC. Eventually, he amassed a library of syllables and phonetic sounds, from which he created the melodies crystallised on the record. As far as we know, these vocal lines have no meaning in lyrical terms.

O’Mahony works largely in an iterative way; song ideas are reworked over and over in different styles, sometimes over a period of years. Multiple versions of a song might appear on an album, each one with its own particular nuances in feeling. Music perhaps does not always flow out of O’Mahony, but emerges over time.

O’Mahony’s album forms part of his wider project: an analysis of his subjectivity through art and psychotherapy. The music complements his writing and video work, which feature in his performances. He writes in chains of association, speculating on topics such as family dynamics, or the meaning of recurring dreams about a childhood game console. His video practice features footage of objects found in his parents’ house, such as his sister’s childhood My Little Pony toy and his retired psychiatrist father’s lecture tapes. The music, at once synthetic and heartfelt, imbues the writing and video work with a strange tenderness. Taken together, these various aspects of O’Mahony’s work form a meditation on the emotional attachments we make to consumer objects and the role of early life in character formation.

Design by Gareth Horner. Pressed on heavyweight clear vinyl