Saturday, December 03, 2011


'Spannered' is a new novel by Bert Random, published by Spannered Books, a new small press based in Bristol.

Described on the cover as 'a book about free parties, friendship and dancing', it is essentially an account of one weekend in Bristol in 1995 centred around a warehouse party, but its evocative descriptions will echo with anybody who has been to free parties anywhere or anytime then or since. It's all there - the highs, the lows, the intense friendships, the casualties, the transformation of some derelict zone into a temporary playground... And of course the music.

The chapter headings are tracks from that period (e.g. The Pump Panel's Ego Acid, Starpower's Renegade 303 from the Chris Liberator/Dave the Drummer 'Stay up Forever' stable). Writing about music without lyrics is notoriously difficult, but the author has a real sense of the physical impact of a snare, a kick drum or a blast of 303 on the bodies of dancers. Especially the latter - it's all about the acid, 'Bristol-style techno - the hard, dense kick drums are circled by fine-tuned cymbals and snares, dirty, squelchy, sub-bass notes rumble under our feet, while sweeping strings and swirling acidlines collide up above. The duelling 303s churn away...'

As a historical document capturing the mood of a specific time and place this book is bang-on, but it also has some broader reflections on dancing. At one point on the dancefloor, the narrator feels 'a link with something primeval, not just with my immediate environment, not just with the shit-hot party going on around me. A link with something deeper than that. I feel a connection to my own history of dancing... I'm possessed by everyone who has ever been moved by music. I feel a link to distant drums of warning and celebration, to the force of rhythm on our cerebral patterns and genetic muscle memories. I remember all this in a split second'.

If the author has felt compelled to write a novel 15 years after the events described, it is presumably because like many of us he recognises that one night can last a lifetime: 'Those moments, those movements, those sounds, those feelngs - they all really happened. The afterglow from sharing those experiences with thousands of people - with hundreds of thousands of people over the years - can keep you warm for a long time, if you let it'.

Detail from illustration by Silent Hobo in Spannered
The book also features some great illustrations by artists including Silent Hobo, Boswell, Nik III, Natalie Sandells and Rose Sanderson.

You can get the paperback for a mere £8.99 from the Spannered Shop, and there is also an e-book version. Ideal Christmas present for anybody who was there, wishes they were, or wonders what it was like (and indeed still is like in free parties today, although obviously some things have changed in the past decade and a half).

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