If 2007 was the zenith of dark, indie-electro music for Australia, then this must one of the few surviving examples of a holy trifecta. Remixing one another’s work was all part of the fun during the heady days of underground rave caves, mash-ups and too many bright colours, but on reflection, many of those free-for-alls have become stale with time and more of a relic than a touchstone. The Valentinos (who would soon change their name to Lost Valentinos to avoid a lawsuit from Bobby Womack, no less) were lucky in this respect, because they were one of the few bands on the scene who were, you know, a band. The Presets were nowhere near at the scale they are today, while Cut Copy was still a drumkit and some very cool looking MIDI controllers. Huge, game-changing records were literally around the corner for both of these bands, but in 2007 the world still looked like it belonged to these guys. And it helped that they had very talented friends.
This Friday night, the Bang Gang DJs, of whom I have often spoken about indirectly in these pages, will be reuniting from their various fashion and hospitality-related pursuits to honour Adrian Thomas, who went by the DJ name Ajax and was perhaps the most important thing to happen to dance music in this country in a long time. I wrote an obituary for Adrian, who died in tragic circumstances last month, over at The Vine, but safe to say without him, the kind of exciting cross-pollination represented by this song simply would not have happened. Ajax was a firm believer in pushing sound to the limit and abandoning preconceptions of cool in favour of moving your feet. It’s interesting, then, that he and his crew did such a good job of converting Lost Valentinos, arguably the trendiest group in the country at a time, into something loose and hilarious. And that’s even before Van She Tech got hold of it.
Lost Valentinos came off a bit like a more dance-inspired Joy Division for a while, particularly in their vocal attack. The slew of hands who took this track apart and rebuilt it for French label Kitsune, used this to their advantage, using Nick Yiannikas’ commanding voice as a launchpad for waves of chopped up guitar samples, massive synths, syncopated bass lines and everything that MSTRKRFT would eventually make their signature. It’s so far removed from the original that it may as well be Frankenstein’s second monster, and yet it works, not only as a sign of the times but also as seriously good entertainment. You can barely even make out the melody in the first section, as it’s whipped about in a phased fit of epileptic proportions, perhaps inspired by Julian Hamilton’s stuttering turn in ‘I Go Hard, I Go Home’. Perhaps more excitingly, it’s entirely impossible to figure out who messed with what on this song. All we have is the end result, and for many people my age, a feeling of irrevocable loss, not only of a movement, but of our youth.
The ongoing influence of the people involved with this track continues to be felt both locally and worldwide. Original drummer Daniel Stricker now plays with Midnight Juggernauts, keyboardist and producer Jono Ma is kicking goals in Jagwar Ma, Patrick Santamaria has started a techno label called Motorik! with former Bang Gang-er Angus Gruzman and that’s without even touching Van She, who are still massively popular on the club festival circuit or Bang Gang, who now seem to own half the decent pubs and bars in Sydney and of whom Beni Single and Gruzman remain the few members who make music for a living. Irrespective of all this, the massive rework of ‘CCTV’ speaks of a more hedonistic time where creativity wasn’t fuelled by brands but rather spearheaded by a bunch of guys who liked to make dick jokes and let you come to their club nights in pajamas. It’s also a killer tune, six years later.
Let’s all have one last dance for Dance Legend, then.
Lost Valentinos – ‘CCTV’ (Bang Gang Vs Van She Tech Remix)