Spannered by Bert Random
Spannered is the first release by a new small press from Bristol, which specialises in beautiful books about underground parties, the spirit of protest, and life outside the mainstream. Louder Than War writer Jules Boyle has been reading it for and below are his thoughts on this “raw, funny, and moving book”.
Drugs are fun. If they weren’t, nobody would take them. Saying that, there’s few things less fun than listening to someone tell you about taking drugs. It’s such a personal experience that the best night of their lives can easily turn into the most boring five minutes of yours.
So it makes it all the more surprising that Spannered is such a joy to read. Bert Random’s novella is a first-person snapshot of the early / mid ’90s free-party scene, perfectly capturing the era when the beats got faster and the drugs got cheaper.
Naming each chapter after one of the big tunes of the time (The Pump Panel – Ego Acid, Hardfloor – Acperience etc…), Random vividly evokes the atmosphere of a chaotic weekender. From the anticipation of approaching the secret party location to the final, blissed-out afterglow as the narrator passes out in bed, the story plays out to a techno backing track.
Anyone who spent any time on the scene at all will recognise the characters and scenarios that are played out across the tight 110 pages. “Old ’92 ravers out of retirement, house divas in fake fur, indie kids and students, travellers, punks and dreads” all drift in and out of focus as our hero scores, dances and generally wanders around a dirty warehouse that might collapse at any point, but for a few magical hours is transformed into the only place to be.
It’s all brilliantly observed or recalled, like the description of the social order of the “boys with bags”:
“There are a crowd of other DJs hanging around behind the decks, chatting and drinking and waiting to snake their way on for play…a mostly good-natured, sometimes snidey ecosystem with politics all of its own.”
Where Random really excels though, is in evoking the visceral feel of the music through the altered perception of a bucketload of drugs. The clanking thump of the 909 and 808 drums, the delirious squelch of the 303, the impact of a hi-hat dropping in and out, the breakdown that goes on forever, the kick-in that feels like a bomb going off in your head, Random just *nails it*. Page after page, he acknowledges that the story he’s spinning revolved around the music. The drugs, the friendships, the adventures, all of that came as a byproduct to thee infinite beat.
Full disclosure: Bert also writes for Louder Than War and you can find his author archive here.
All words by Jules Boyle. More writing by Jules can be found here.