Jason Kaplan
Scarcely more than one year old, Portland record label FILMguerrero is at this point still in its infancy, yet boasts a short-but-impressively-sweet roster of local triumphs including Norfolk & Western and Tracker, as well as the California band Buellton. The man behind the moniker is the erudite and gentlemanly John Askew, leader of Tracker and member of N & W. He uses the term "record label" somewhat reluctantly, however, as the organization is intended to incorporate more than just music (as so equivocal a label name is intended to imply). "[The name] is more of an invention than anything," expounds Askew. "I wanted it to have the opportunity, as years went by, to transform into different things, so I figured 'FILM' would be confusing enough to where you could put out other things underneath this moniker. 'Guerrero' was just a pack of tortillas that I was eating one night.

"It was conceived with the intent of it being a collective," Askew adds, "because there wasn't any money. The projects that were involved, certainly Adam [Selzer, of Norfolk & Western] and myself, were dedicated not only to a certain sonic appeal, but we had also known each other for a really long time, so there was definitely an aspect of philosophy as well."

The great subcultural spirit of independence is well represented by the activities and attitudes of Fg, and eloquently captured in the label's online manifesto (see www. FILMguerrero. com). Politics aside however, it is truly the unique stratagem of the Fg artists that not only set it apart from other fledgling labels in town, but caused its conception in the first place. As Askew remembers, "It basically came about when Adam and I were working at Type Foundry [recording studio] together. He was working on the N & W record at the time, and I was working on the Tracker record, and they both had aesthetic qualities that were very visual."

Arranged according to their sonic dispositions, the three principal Fg bands form a crescendo of sorts. The somber atmospheric soundscapes and patient, country-spiced rock of Norfolk & Western set a new standard for bleak, sonorous, cinematic intensity. Tracker shares a similar wanderlustful musicality, but expresses it with greater reliance upon guitar chord progressions and less keyboards and gadgets, and is therefore a distinct shade brisker. Then there is Buellton, whose Avenue of the Flags is the latest release from Fg, and whose sound is downright ebullient by comparison with clean, sweepingly layered guitars and driving, forcible melodies. Buellton coasts far outside the introspective negative space of its labelmates, while as far as technical musicianship goes, the kinship is unmistakable, and the FILMguerrero aesthetic remains generally intact.

Fartsy rock-crit bombast aside, the fundamental goal of Fg is no different from any other sincere artistic group. "The basis for what we're trying to do is to make the projects we believe in have the availability for people to hear them," states John Askew. Check your local indie record stores for signs of their success in this regard, keeping in mind that should you not find any albums there, stuff might be a little cheaper at a live show, anyway. Besides, performances by FILMguerrero bands are never to be missed, regardless of how one fares in the shops.