LoDubs: Dubstep, Drone, and Beyond

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The American West Coast seems to have really taken to U.K. dubstep–Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have developed devoted audiences for the stripped-down low-end sound that some initially surmised would be just a British thing. And helping U.S. dubstep make its mark, one bass-heavy burner at a time, is Jon A.D.’s LoDubs label.

LoDubs is not your ordinary dance music imprint, nor is Jon A.D. a young upstart. The label is run from inside Anthem Records, a record store (and label of the same name) that Jon owns, and which specializes in limited-edition metal, noise, and drone releases. This may seem contradictory, but Jon sees a strong connection between metal, noise, and dubstep. “Dubstep is so much about drum structures. And when you increase the air and rhythm in tracks, that allows drone and other frequencies to come out. Scorn’s stuff is very metal, and Burial and Boxcutter have some of those elements as well.”

In a former life, Jon A.D. was known as Jon Aldente, a Eugene, Oregon native who decamped to the Portland suburb of Milwaukie to throw drum & bass parties and DJ, then to San Francisco, where he started a house label, Losonofono, and ran a CD-pressing outfit. (Twee-pop act Boyracer dedicated a track to one of Jon’s angry voicemails on his To Get a Better Hold You’ve Got to Loosen Yr Grip album.) Getting little credit in the local house scene and fed up with the music business, Aldente closed up shop and returned to his home state in 2003.

Given the current digital music climate, it’s surprising that A.D. still wants to press vinyl, but he’s undaunted. “I like the idea of having artifacts that encapsulate art,” he says. “This stuff can’t just die on a hard drive somewhere.” To that effect, you can often find him behind the counter at Anthem, hand-cutting and stamping LoDubs releases. “I did that primarily for financial reasons, but it’s had a humanizing effect,” he explains.

If you’re not a DJ, LoDubs’ recent Analog Clash two-CD compilation contains all the recent LoDubs tracks, both as WAV files and as a mix, sutured together by L.A. icon R.A.W. (under his dubstep guise 6Blocc). Featuring the skull-and-bones-rattling ragga of Canadian DZ’s “Chalice Dub,” the emotive boom-clack-and-wobble of “Dementia” (by Philly’s Starkey), and the easy skank of “Mangione Tribe Dub” by Texas-based South3rn, the compilation highlights the myriad influences–dub, breakbeat hardcore, drum & bass, and, yes, even metal–that make present-day dubstep such an open palette.

“It’s really gratifying right now,” says Jon. “Being able to perpetuate ideas by having a label is really no different than being able to help someone in my record store. Plus, the best art comes from the struggle. I wouldn’t feel wholly successful if things were easy.”

Favorite Portland artist:
I’m torn between Daniel Menche and Agalloch. Menche has been a Portland fixture for almost 20 years. As for Agalloch, they are simply a lone force
in metal...