Portuguese experimental trio 10 000 Russos released their fifth album Superinertia last week via Fuzz Club Records. Following on from 2019’s Kompromat and tour-dates around the UK, Europe and Mexico in support, the Porto-based band describe ‘Superinertia’ as a record addressing the “state of inertia that humans live in the West nowadays. It isn’t a record about the past or future. It’s about now.” This inertia, they say, is one deeply-rooted in the Western condition – in which ‘common sense’ masquerades political impotence, culture is largely dominated by pastiche and nostalgia and life itself is reduced to an endless cycle of work-consume-repeat.
For all that Superinertia might take aim at a world without motion, however, the same cannot be said of 10 000 Russos themselves. Not least because of the new sounds explored on this album, aided especially by the recent addition of synth player Nils Meisel to the line-up (who replaces former bassist André Coute). “The synths really opened up the sound of the band and gave more routes for the music to journey down”, drummer and vocalist João Pimenta explains: “The most important thing on this album was to not repeat ourselves, and to do so without sounding like a Zappa tribute band. I really think the old Russos are now buried and a new arc in our sound is coming to life.” Fundamentally, though, 10 000 Russos’ music has always been about as kinetic as it gets: a perpetually driving sonic force. At times on ‘Superinertia’ – beneath Pedro Pestana’s manipulated guitar squalls, new experiments with synths and tongue-in-cheek vocals that make you think Pimenta might just be Portugal’s answer to Mark E. Smith – you can still find hints of those same motorik rhythms that charged blissfully into the infinite on their earlier works.
Opening with ‘Station Europa’ they waste no time laying down the tracks for what is to come. The motorik beat grabs hold instantly and the lyrics offer a hint at their views on the current political state of the times in which we find ourselves. Pestana describes it as “a twisted anthem for the end of Europe, in which the once-sacred French words Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité are contradicted by a heritage of bureaucracy that gets in the way of a fellow member’s call for help.” ‘No more French words!’, Pimenta sarcastically quips, amongst such other lyrical highlights which I’ll let you discern for yourself but listen closely and have a good laugh at your own expense. ‘Saw the Damp’ is the most traditional sounding Russos track on the album; “the use of a bullet mic on the tom gives it this hypnotic West African polyrhythm, whilst pairing it with a Neu-esque guitar riff”, and when coupled with the opener, they act as a perfect bookends for how Russos sound is evolving.
‘Super Inertia’ showcases the best the new line-up has to offer, with an expansive new sound flourish, which, musically, Pimenta describes frankly as “funky as f*ck with a 90s Summer of Love dance anthem ending.” It’s an injection of euphoric hedonism into a song (and album) that’s title acts as “a response or reaction to the forced halt we (the proverbial we: Man) have been subjected to lately and what we have been missing”, as Pestana puts it. It’s the type of track you always knew they were capable of, but for some reason never quite pictured them recording, yet here it is in eight minutes of glory and with the tour looming, this is the one that will fill floors with dancing bodies. ‘A House Full of Garbage’ is a slow burner, which – replete with sparse drum-machine and languid, jangling guitars – is the closest thing 10 000 Russos have ever done to a pop song. With lyrics like ‘It’s just you and your hope / It’s just you and your tiny home / Three cups, five forks and one knife, four thousand boxes / I can’t work in this house full of garbage’. It won’t be for everyone, but it is a poignant message of the times we have been through, those forced to work from home in less than ideal surroundings will surely relate.
Closing off is the cinematic epic ‘Mexicali/Calexico’, inspired by their stop at Mexicali on their 2019 Mexican tour. Pestana says of the song: “It’s a diptych about crossing from Mexico to the US. Mexicali (MX) and Calexico (US) would just be one city if there weren’t bars in between. It’s to do with being disillusioned with a dream – like you’re already in a sore state, leaving to a sort of promised land and after crossing everything still turns into crazy cowboy shit.” Like the neighbouring cities of its title, the song is divided into two separate but ultimately inseparable parts: Mexicali (sung in English) and Calexico (sung in Spanish). Mirroring the protagonist’s wandering journey across the border, the music itself only gets wilder and wilder. Beginning with atmospheric, desert-invoking guitars that bring to mind Ry Cooder’s ‘Paris, Texas’ soundtrack, the track soon enough builds into an unhinged, feedback-blasted Stooges beat interspersed with frantic banjo playing.
Not sure what there is left to say in summing this album up, it’s simply brilliant and you should go and listen to it – loud – and then go and see them live as soon as you can.