Thunderwheel is a new project of Israeli musician Vadim Gusis, who’s best known as the founder of dark ambient project Chaos As Shelter, and who is also a member of Agnivolok. For Credo, the debut album of Thunderwheel, he’s joined by a couple of guest musicians, namely Igor Krutogolov (a.k.a. Igor18), who’s a fellow member of Agnivolok, as well as being involved with Kruzenstern & Parohod and Igor Krutogolov's Carate Band, and Slava Smelovsky, a member of Grundik + Slava and Crossfishes.

The first thing to say about this album is that it sounds nothing like Chaos As Shelter. In fact, it hardly sounds like anything else at all. The Eastern Front describe this as �Surrealistic Industrial Instrumental Romance’, which may or may not give you some idea of what to expect. The instruments employed by Vadim Gusis for this recording include a Siel Cruise analogue synth, percussion, field recordings, �unusual instruments’ and voice (although the album is largely instrumental), while Igor Krutogolov plays musical saw on six of the album’s eight tracks, and Slava Smelovsky plays theremin on three of them. Now, both the musical saw and the theremin have very distinctive sounds, and since only one track on Credo features neither instrument, you can readily imagine before even hearing it that the album is a veritable festival of weird, wavering, undulating tones. The synth is used to play slow, sinuous melodies, full of campy, phantasmagorical, atmosphere, while the saw and theremin swoop and wobble over the top, accompanied by an assortment of odd little incidental sounds. The second track, �Into The Pure Land’, uses bold organ tones to eerie effect, �Emptiness’ has a suspense-laden, creepy-crawly bassline (I’d have guessed this was a bass guitar, though the cover makes no mention of any guitars), and �Harmless Song’ blends Danny Elfman-style keyboards and chimes with melodramatic whispers. The final track, �Mindstream’, is the album’s longest at ten and a half minutes, and it’s also the most experimental, being a ramshackle assemblage of disjointed, mournful tones, fragmentary melodic themes and distant metal percussion.

There’s a tinge of decadence, of cabaret and carnivals, fortune-tellers and end-of-the-pier shows about Credo, and the music is also suffused with a distinctively bittersweet eastern European nostalgia and melancholy – unsurprising, really, since all of the musicians involved are former Russians who have settled in Israel. Musical saw acts, of course, have always been a staple of music-hall and variety shows, while it’s impossible to listen to a theremin without it conjuring visions of creaky old horror films from the 1920s and 30s.

In terms of sensibility, Thunderwheel do have something in common with the Russian-Israeli group Zlye Kukly, although their music is very different. The Paris Spleen album by Italian neo-classicists Ataraxia (reviewed elsewhere on Judas Kiss) drew on a similar dark cabaret aesthetic, but, again, with very different musical results. Musically speaking, Thunderwheel are perhaps closest to experimental acts such as Novy Svet, Ô Paradis and Mushroom’s Patience, but their music really defies easy categorisation. I definitely found it intriguingly different and beguiling, though – listening to a track or two on Thunderwheel’s MySpace page should give you an idea whether you agree or not. With Credo, The Eastern Front have once again shown themselves courageous enough to take risks with their release schedule, rather than simply churning out one cookie-cutter dark ambient, neo-folk or martial release after another, and this is commendable.

Credo is a limited-edition release of 500 copies, and it comes packaged in the usual Eastern Front oversized gatefold glossy card sleeve, with black-on-sepia artwork and texts which are a strange mixture of Zen Buddhist iconography and puzzle pictures, in keeping with the arcane nature of this very idiosyncratic recording.
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