Various Artists, “Request Stop”
By James Gui · February 12, 2024 Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Known for improvised electronics and righteous noise, Brachliegen Tapes is a UK-based imprint whose latest compilation is inspired by riding the bus. Simon Reynolds once wrote that Burial’s “Night Bus” was an ode to the post-rave comedown that defined a generation before the Underground went 24 hours; Request Stop is a markedly less peaceful electronic take on public transit. Through inventive, experimental, and sometimes aggressive electronic sounds, Brachliegen Tapes’s curators explore the everyday rhythms and cacophonies of bus travel, finding beauty in these vital—and underfunded—services.

While Request Stop is a primarily UK-based endeavor, contributions from outside the English metropole hint at its transitory resonances across Europe. Milan duo Rosso Polare offer a combination of meandering guitar lines and bubbling electronics on “ugola,” a track whose timbre gradually gets more aquatic as time passes. Oslo-based Mark Dicker’s contribution is driven by a rising sub-bass in Sisphyean repetition as enigmatic synths dart by, leaving trails of delay in their wake. Tokyo-via-London harsh noisician LIKE WEEDS offers the record’s heaviest track, with industrial kicks and jagged synths that seep into your bones. 

The other tracks have more UK flair. “3AM, 243” and “196 is a joke” reference bus routes in London; the former featuring a conversation between two women that gradually disintegrates, the latter consisting of pulsating electronics for the knob-twiddlers in the crowd. “Theme from TOP DECK” is perhaps the most straightforward track of the bunch, ironically by the record’s most mysterious contributors who are, according to the liner notes, “​​anarcho London bus punks.” It’s punk for sure, with vocals seemingly recorded on a broken Nintendo DS and screamed from the top of one of London’s famous double-decker buses. And while the title of 1012’s contribution, “Man Wakes Up After Night On Bus To Find Out It Never Left Glasgow,” reads like an absurdist drama, its sound skews more ominous: tinny hi-hats, muffled kicks, and etherized amen breaks that come in fits and starts. 

There’s a reason why Brachliegen Tapes keeps things closer to home with the contributions here. The record’s proceeds are being directed to the Autonomous Winter Shelter, a mutual aid group in London that was evicted from their squat in the abandoned Sisters of Mercy convent last summer. Putting the label’s people-forward politics into practice, Request Stop is a collection of sounds as novel as they are progressive. 

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