18 Slashes – Jawnnobyl
> Dark synth/electronic
> Pennsylvania, US
> Released January 13
* sound of a PS1 starting up *
Admittedly I don’t get around to a ton of purely electronic music these days, especially writing reviews for a metal website. But what is a new year if not a perfect opportunity to dive into something outside your comfort zone and something sure to get a complaint or two as not being metal enough or something? Seems right smack in the middle of my wheel house.
Jawnnobyl is the latest release from Philadelphia’s own 18 Slashes, and is self-described in such a beautiful way that I kind of have to just share the album description verbatim:
“A soundtrack to a not so fictional game depicting the story of John Noble, who after being exposed to toxic chemicals as a result of a refinery explosion gains the ability to become a cybernetic robot made out of trash. John swears to find whomever caused the explosion only to discover a conspiracy by aliens from Mars posing as real estate developers from NYC to gentrify Philly and turn it into their base of operations.”
Honestly it reads like a frantic elevator pitch from back when Hollywood was 96% cocaine, and I am all the way here for it. What makes that all the better is the fact that 18 Slashes absolutely manages to match that energy, and weirdly the album does work as described. I can see this as the soundtrack to a game with…just so many polygons, and it’s an entire aesthetic that I’m very into. There is a frenetic energy here that makes this kind of a weird album to listen to just as you go about your day to day life, suggesting that perhaps you are indeed John Noble and aliens are just around the corner. Or that you’ve walked into a rave in the Matrix, either are fine options.
Even amongst the un-deniably chaotic noise that Jawnnobyl blasts forth from end to end, it still manages to be a fun and cohesive piece of electronic music. It ebbs and flows song to song but also across the entire thing, where some electronic music gets lost in a repetitive droning beat, there is something to engage with in each song, and enough variety from track to track to keep things from getting stale. That variety also helps to really set scenes in your head, further informed by the track titles to be sure, but nothing feels arbitrary, everything feels like part of a whole.
The trickiest part about this review, truly, is my lack of really understanding how electronic music is made. Some of the set ups I’ve seen look like old timey phone switchboards and some are just, seemingly, old Casio keyboards. It seems like the barrier to entry is as complex as you want it to be, and I’ve not even stepped across the threshold, so I can’t speak to the production necessarily other than to say “It sounds good to my ear and vibrates nicely inside my brain”. Which may not pass the smell test as musical literacy but we all do what we can do. Suffice it to say that I don’t review things that I don’t like, because who has the kind of time for that negativity in their lives?
Maybe the best way I can think to describe this is that the album sounds like video games felt to play when you were a kid. Revisiting old early generation games as an adult can be a bit lackluster with the giant polygons and terrible animation, but when we were young and it those were new, they fucking things may as well have been photo-realistic. This album captures that feeling, or I guess it recaptures it. Like a view of what the internet would be back in Hackers or something. Though I worry at this point I’m losing the thread.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Jawnnobyl rules. 18 Slashes rules. We really are off to a great start in 2023. If you are looking for some catchy and chaotic electronic music to pop in between brutal blast beats and grindcore, it’s hard to imagine doing much better than this.