Fermin Muguruza: FM 99.00 Dub Manifest

Matt Cibula

Fermin Muguruza

FM 99.00 Dub Manifest

Label: Piranha
US Release Date: 2001-05-08

There's an old Basque proverb that says, "Ez ardo bizidunik, ez andre bizardunik". Translated, that means, "Two things to avoid: sparkling wine and bearded women".

Okay, maybe that's not the most relevant old Basque proverb; I got it off a website. I don't really know anything about Basque culture, or Basque history, or the real history behind their beef with Spain, or anything. But I do know that the Basques have their own way of looking at the world, and a beautiful language called Euskera with excellent old proverbs like the one above, and a talented globopop star in Fermin Muguruza.

Don't be fooled by the title -- FM 99.00 Dub Manifest is not dub music like King Tubby or Lee Perry would recognize it. Muguruza does use some dub echo tricks and some ska and reggae touches, but this isn't a "let's sound Jamaican" party. Neither is the sound very firmly in the drum'n'bass camp, or the techno-ethno camp, or the neo-Cuban camp, or the camps of any of the musical styles that get tossed in the pot on this record. It's just good, fun, dancey ear-candy that everyone in the world can love.

Which I guess is exactly what he's going for. When the opening title track goes from Skatalite horns and chugging reggae rhythm into a Latinate pop-funk workout, it's not because Muguruza is trying to subvert genre or take on any kind of multi-part Radiohead-like epic -- he just thinks it sounds good. And it does. When "Ekhi Eder" goes from easy skankin' to power-pop Who homage at about the 1:34 mark, Oskar Benas' guitar rips off the same chords from "I Can't Explain" that Big Audio Dynamite II did in 1991 with "Rush". Could it be that we are in an era where musicians are just as influenced by Mick Jones' post-Clash band as by the actual Clash themselves? This album is pop music all the way, but Muguruza, like Jones (and Joe Strummer, really) is willing to break a lot of different eggs to make his omelette.

Overall, Muguruza's themes seem to be (in order of frequency) that the Basque people need respect, that globalization of American culture is bad, that violence is bad, and that celebrities who try to effect political change shouldn't just exchange fashion tips with the Pope. (This last one, on "Radical Chic", makes for what I think is a pretty funny and gentle burn on Bono, but I can't tell.) Unfortunately for us, the English translation is fairly confusing, so you won't really know what's happening in most of these songs.

But FM 99.00 Dub Manifest goes down so smoothly that it doesn't matter. Instead, just groove on the fun stuff: the Euskara hip-hop on "Diru Espainol Zikina"; the drill-'n'-ragga of "Big Beñat eta Korrida 2001 (Mundu Bat Bildu!)"; the fake '60s pop sound of closer "Irudikeriak". No, this album isn't going to change the world, and no, it's not going to rule the charts either. But it's a really good 51 minutes of music by someone who could be a star down the line. You end up with a generalized sense of Fermin Muguruza as a good guy with his leftist politics in the right place. And, as another Basque proverb has it, "Bihotzean dagoena, mihira irten". The translation on that: "What is in the heart comes out of the mouth".

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.