First, the project, Tronul Ascuns, Memorii Astrale, translates to The Hidden Throne, Astral Memories. The dark ambient industrial music project is one of several by Romanian artist Lucian Olteanu. Released through the Noctivagant label, along with Wide Open Wings, Wingswork, both were recorded 20 years ago on a computer done using Fruity Loops, Sonar, and Reason. We're told that at the time, Luc had to resort to this method without traditional instruments in the style of other dark ambient industrial or, as one of the earliest reviews said of it,
"Ambient with fragile touches of Neo Industrial delicately wrapped in a Dark silhouette with awkward rhythms… sometimes staccato ones."
There are some other things added to their "review," but it's not a thorough one. There is mention of influential artists such as Arcana, Raison d'être, and anything off the Cold Meat Industry label. This is the first time I've heard music from an artist openly embracing the artists from that label. I worked in IT support then and had that label bookmarked for their releases. Even earlier than that, I was into MZ.412 and Mortiis before I knew about CMI. I've even seen Mortiis live before; that is how much of a fan I was. Well, I still am.
Lucian's initial release of this work was as Tronul Ascuns - Best Tracks via Soundscapemuzik in 2020. The review mentioned above seems to be backdated to 2003 or was updated with the link https://soundscapemuzik.bandcamp.com/album/memorii-astrale?fbclid=IwAR3oUhDSjnX7NNlodVZGY3h76uy9nHB1QhThpDToZnBaDn8o8E4nahHeYDE, to the site that no longer works. Lucian's own Bandcamp page appears to be back-dated as well, as it shows January 1, 2003, because Bandcamp wasn't around until 2008. This year, the Albuquerque-based Noctivagant put this project and his other Wide Open Wings project, Wingswork, out on CD.
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The Specific Retro Of This Dark Ambient Industrial Synthphony
My recollection of the Cold Meat Industry artists that I've listened to was that their music was not as accessible as Luc's work is. The instrumentals for both Memorii Astrale and Wingswork have memorable melodies. Everything else could be considered ambient noise. Though I could be wrong about my recollection of CMI, this work could be as accessible as your favorite soundtracks. The main goal here is to capture the nostalgia of synthesizers from other artists during that period. They're made to sound like orchestral movements by keyboard.
This is a good example of eras in music from another country. If you know nothing about Nordic or Swedish metal, chances are you don't know anything about this music scene. Twenty years later, here we are with me, reminiscing about this period of ambient industrial music that I was curious enough about to listen to at the time. So, this is nostalgic for me as well. I am also reminded of the primitive equivalent of computer effects of the 80s and 90s. One retro synth wave artist, Faint Waves, compiled video footage from The Mind's Eye series for their music video, videos I watched back when they were just years old.
Tronul Ascuns Memorii Astrale
The first thing to do is translate the track's titles to find a theme. The tracks are translated in order: Star Dance, Egocentric Universe, Demons of the Heights, Star Walls of Time, Hourglass with Stars, Throne over the Abyss (I), The King of the Stars, The Troubadour Star, The Simplicity of the Stars, Farewell, Ascetic Star!, The Stars Dance, The Melancholy of the End, Bonus: Roads to Unreached Heights, By the Transcendental Gates, The Infinite Mountain, Kogaionon, 100 Years Old.
I embrace and appreciate the confidence Luc has to release these now. Without nostalgia, people today would consider this music to be amateurish and bad. I can only meet them a quarter of the way to say that the first four tracks, beyond nostalgia, are nothing special. It's when "Clepsidre Cu Astre (Hourglasses With Stars)" starts that things change. It is among my favorite tracks here. It's a lesser version of what Patrick O'Hearn was doing at the time, but it's at that level and enchanting.
"Tron Peste Abis (I), (Throne over the Abyss (I)" is another great track. The first half of it dwells in minimal ambiance before he adds a sparse melody with the piano in the second. "Regele Astrelor (The King of the Stars)" is interesting and one of the tracks with that rapid-fire percussion you hear in speed metal music. "Simplitatea Astrelor (The Simplicity of the Stars)" changes things a bit, incorporating horns and drums differently. "Adio, astru ascet! (Farewell, Ascetic Star!)" is another favorite. This release sometimes reminds me of the style of Liabach's Nova Akropola, which had a lot more going on, production-wise.
The Mortiis Comparison
The path has already been set with my feelings about this album, with Luc's Mortiis reference as a musical influence. I got into him because of the gimmick to wear Goblin makeup. That's the reason I bought Ånden Som Gjorde Opprør (1995) and Keiser Av En Dimensjon Ukjent (1995) at the CD store back in the 90s. I was browsing through the bins, finding something to spend the money I earned working at Ticketmaster. I saw this Goblin-looking dude on the cover in the import section and threw my hard-earned money down.
I grew up watching Ridley Scott's Legend, and he looked like Blix (Alice Playten) / Meg Muckelbones (Robert Picardo) from that movie. I remember being mad when I played the CDs. It was probably the first time that I owned a CD that had two 20-minute tracks I couldn't skip through as normal. There was also no singing, and I felt duped from the experience. I kept them in my collection for a while and have since seen Mortiis perform, perhaps still in the 90s. It was trial by disappointment that I would learn to appreciate Dungeon synth. For this review, I went back to listen to those two albums, and in listening to them now, I find that Mortiis' music is more accessible than I remembered.
I didn't make the connection then that Mortiis's music was tapping into my obsession with Legend, or I would have appreciated it more. In that case, Memorii Astrale exists in the astral plane of that film, whereas Mortiis is more terrestrial. I imagine this music playing in that scene where Darkness seduces Lili. When Darkness steps out of the mirror, it looks like he's coming from the stars. If there were an entire album that was just about that scene, this would be it. Of the two releases, Wide Open Wings' Wingswork and this, Tronul Ascuns Memorii Astrale, I like the best, especially because it's the darkest of the two. Returning to the range of accessibility, however, the other Wide Open Wings' Wingswork is more accessible if we don't know Romanian. If you want to get these dark ambient industrial releases on CD, you'll need to act fast, as there are only 100 copies of each release through the label's Bandcamp page.