Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making your life better? Today, educator, beatboxer and producer, Connor Malanos.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
Some context, I’ve always liked learning about other people's taste in music. As a music educator, I was taught to appreciate and see the value in any and all music. At one point, I even decided to challenge myself never to hit skip on a song!
During the 2021 NSW lockdown, there were long expanses of time with none of my usual teaching, production, or performance gigs. I defaulted to these broad Spotify playlists that each had a particular flavour of energy that I could be immersed with and absorb.
4 hours of Viking Meditation
10 hours of Sea Shanties That Drop My Panties
6 hours of electronic sub bass and laser hats - from Trap Nation
15 hours of Australian rock and country from a playlist called True Blue Aussie S*** C****
6 hours playlist of acapella in Acascuse Me compiled by my dear friend, Jesse Van Proctor.
76 hours of Low-Fi Beats To Chill To
That’s 117 hours of songs that I didn’t personally curate. More often than not I was listening to songs that I’d never heard before. The main self-curated playlist I’ve been listening to is BEATBOX SONGS, which heavily features Napom’s incredible solo beatbox album Lips.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
There’ve been a few songs I’ve claimed as my favourites over the last few years, and sometimes I just get the craving for their specific brilliance. Every day I aggressively wake up to Phonon’s Polyriddim. When looking for inspiration, I turn to FKJ’s Tadow for the masterful looping and improvisation, the Ringmasters’ Notre Dame Medley for the peak of barbershop brilliance, and Monique Clare’s Hourglass always amazes me with her simultaneously singing and shredding on cello!
Sometimes you just need a kids movie reskinned as comedy-funk. Since it was shown to me, Shrek Is Love’s Lord Faarquad, from their album shrek is love, volume 1 has been my number 1 album. Does a handful of songs on repeat count as a taste in music?
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN CHANGED THE WAY YOU CONSUME MUSIC?
Over the course of the lockdown, I’ve had to slow down from a busy freelance gig calendar. I’d been listening to a selection of Pentatonix songs, classical string quartets, or solo viola music as part of practising to perform them. I’d fallen into the habit of “discovering music” but not really paying attention to what I’ve discovered. When having conversations with friends, I realised I was recommending music to them that I hadn’t listened to for months or even years.
I was in the passenger seat with Spotify at the wheel. I wasn’t telling the driver where I wanted to go, exactly what I needed from the music, or what I was hoping to discover. Sometimes I wasn’t even really looking out the window. If personality is in the choices one makes, my desire for efficiency, and acceptance of all music has stripped nearly all the personality out of my listening choices.
This lockdown was a disappointment, a struggle, and a challenge in many ways. But it has given me an opportunity to slow down and take stock of my relationship with music. The random Spotify playlists are now deleted from my account. I’m sure 14 hours of Viking meditation and sea-shanties will still be there if I ever need it.
Time to take the wheel.
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
Growing up, my family had the same glove box collection of cd’s on rotation every trip. Big Science by Laurie Anderson, was a bit wild to me then, but definitely influenced my love of looping that has become an essential part of my live beatbox performances. Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel, stripped back to acoustic guitar, and voice tells stories and vivid pictures. The song Overs from that album moves me to weep. And a So Frenchy So Chic compilation CD that featured the first song I ever fell in love with, Hindi Zahara’s Beautiful Tango.
For nearly 10 years, I have regarded Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, as the quintessential-complete-album-to-listen-to-start-to-finish. I will always remember the six hour road trip with my dad where we played this album on repeat. Maybe something will usurp it some day. For now, it remains the only vinyl I ever bought purely to honour the creation. I don’t have a record player.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC – OR AN ARTIST OR GENRE - THAT WAS UNEXPECTED? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
Discovering new music has never been so easy. What was once eavesdropping and navigating Limewire, is now a single online search. My dear friend Liam, recently recommended Bones, by Michael Mayo. Liam knows me well and this groovy, beatbox and voice looping album is quickly climbing in my most played.
A new friend, Emily, recently recommended the artist Elise Truow, an astoundingly skilled multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist. I had some success with what I was hoping to discover and came across award winning American beatbox duo SpiderHorse, who are completely redefining the boundaries between beatboxing and vocal-percussion. And as a longtime follower of jazz pianist and internet celebrity, Charles Cornell, I can’t wait to lie down and let his new jazz album Tales wash over me.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
I’ve been reaching into my past curating a playlist called CONNOR’S HAPPY SONGS. There’s a variety of styles in there, and they bring me joy for different reasons. I find the familiarity of music brings a sense of comfort; playing the RuneScape theme hits me with childhood nostalgia so strongly it overwhelms most other emotions. Sometimes it’s a high-school hip-hop anthem that I can’t help but rap along to, like Hilltop Hood's Nosebleed Section, or Bliss N Eso’s Addicted.
And sometimes it’s just a song like Kero Kero Bonito’s Flamingo to help remember Zander’s rule number 6: don’t take yourself so seriously. I won’t share the playlist but, I will suggest that it is impossible to be anxious whilst listening to Jacob Collier’s Moon River.
Best of luck on the road.
Connor Malanos’ main project is to bring beatboxing to schools in workshops. He’s launching a beatbox course this year so keep an eye out. You’ll always find him at www.connormalanos.com