Michael Regina – Beyond The Pale

 Michael Regina – Beyond The Pale

Michael Regina – Beyond The Pale – Album Review

With 3200+ reviews written here on these pages of ours, believe me when I tell ya, you’d have to do a whole lot of reading out there to find an artist that’s been as consistent with their creativity & catalog as Michael Regina has been throughout the years.  It’s been nearly five years since I first started listening to his music back when I reviewed a record he released called A Far Better World back in the summer of 2018, and practically every year since, we’re heard something new and equally stunning from this digital maestro.  I considered putting out an APB for him in 2022 when he didn’t show up on this site with a new album for ya…but truthfully, we’re all allowed to take a little time off when we need to, and I never worry about artists like Regina that I know are always immersed in their craft behind the scenes for sure.

And so here we are, a brand-new record, still landing on our pages in what might be about a year & a half.  Considering the quality of his music, you’d think he’d need a lot more time in between records than he actually does – and that fact alone speaks volumes on behalf of what he accomplishes with each new album he releases.  The guy’s an undeniable talent, and always a tremendous pleasure to listen to.

No surprise to myself personally, the story really remains the same…that’s the thing about consistency y’all, it’s consistent.  As “Ultra” blasts us gently out into the airwaves straight from mission control, you can easily hear the man is back in action, doin’ what he does best.  With production on-point from the lefts to the rights, everything from the low-end grooves to the airy melody that comes in to guide us along this sonic adventure is crisp, clearly, and completely ready for consumption.  “Ultra” is a stellar example of the combinations of creativity and cohesiveness you’ll find in Michael’s music…there’s nothing out of place, nothing out of line, and never anything for me to complain about!  Can I complain about that?  The absence of things to complain about?  I’m a critic…don’t we all need to complain about something?  You get the idea I’m sure…Regina is not only a well-seasoned veteran of the scene that is relentlessly professional, but like “Ultra” will immediately confirm, his music is constantly compelling.

“Crystalline” is another solid venture into the atmospherically inclined tunes that Michael creates so very well, and I’d reckon this track will be another song that continues to entice people into listening to Beyond The Pale as it builds momentum.  It’s interesting…I suppose I’d readily concede that, in my mind, a track like “Crystalline” is almost on the easy side of things for an artist with the talent that Michael has, and yet, it’s impossible not to acknowledge all the work and detail you’ll find in it.  It wouldn’t simply be easy to create something as flawless & smooth as “Crystalline” is for anyone out there, Regina included.  It takes a whole lot of refinement and years of experience to get to the point where he’s at as an artist now.  Do I think “Crystalline” is B-side?  Not necessarily…not at all really…I suppose I’m saying that I know he’s got a whole bunch of these tunes inside him just waiting for an opportunity to get out into the world.  On anyone else’s record, a track like this would be recognized as the gold it truly is right away, and yet here on Beyond The Pale, knowing what else is on this album, it’s probably fair to say that he’s ensured a gradual gateway into the heart of this record without giving everything away all at once.  It sounds freakin’ spectacular y’all…don’t get it twisted, don’t get me wrong – it’s only by comparison to the rest of what he creates that we might question anything at all…quality-wise, he never lets you down.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing what you’re really looking for in someone’s music, and for me, I know exactly what I love in Regina’s music resides completely within a song like “To Be Home.”  The melody & main hook he’s added into this song is straight up immaculate y’all…it’s about as moving as music without words could ever be.  You feel this one, right in the core of your soul…and when the main piano hook comes around each and every time, it’s guaranteed to make an impression on you.  “To Be Home” captures so much beauty between the lefts & rights that you should be nothing short of amazed and as thankful as I am that we got the opportunity to have a listen.  I’ve heard some great songs this year as I do every year, and I’m tellin’ ya wholeheartedly, “To Be Home” is right up there with the very best of 2023 so far.  Like I was saying…I don’t think a track like “Crystalline” necessarily qualifies as a B-side by definition – it’s still a really freakin’ great song – but a track like “To Be Home” is such an undeniable A-side in every way, that you can’t help but admire how much universal sound he’s got threaded into this moment in music.  As he reveals in every lineup of songs he creates, Michael’s got a whole bunch of great songs on Beyond The Pale – but when you know, you know, as they say…and I’m tellin’ ya right here & now that “To Be Home” will still be on my playlist for years and years to follow.

Obviously anything that comes after a track as strong as “To Be Home” is going to be in for a challenge.  The idea that anyone out there will continually one-up themselves from the beginning to the end of a record is more than amusing and just as theoretically improbable…it would be rare beyond belief, and to be truthful, I don’t know that’s what anyone would ever really want, or it would make repeating that kind of album a real chore – you’d be slogging through the start just to get to the end.  We need dynamics on a record…some ups, some downs…that’s genuinely crucial stuff.  I’ve already told ya that Michael ain’t gonna let the quality of what he creates ever drop from the performance to production, so you’re on safe & solid ground no matter what track you land on.  “By Design” has a steadiness to it that I think people will appreciate…it’s a reliable tune…almost like a spiritual or tribal Electro-vibe goin’ on, and I’d imagine listeners will take to it well.  Personally I like the hypnotic repetition to it and that it didn’t feel like Michael was trying to do too much on “By Design” – he kept the ship steady and stayed the course as opposed to try and rock the boat.  As a result, “By Design” might not end up being the number one choice in your list of favorites from Beyond The Pale, but it’ll still be a track you can come back to & know you can count on – make sense?  An album needs to breathe, and “By Design” gives it the opportunity to do exactly that by somewhat acknowledging it couldn’t compete with “To Be Home.”

There are actually a lot of tie-ins with Post-Punk music throughout this record that almost give it as much in common with that genre than you’d find it has naturally with Electro.  Take a track like “The Precipice” for example…listen to the spread out atmosphere and the way the drums come in with such rhythm & BIG hits that complement the melody you’re hearing – you could practically find something similar on The Cure’s Disintegration, and that’s not exactly the typical comparison that you’d imagine would come to mind when listening to an electronic-based artist like Michael Regina.  There’s just something special about the evocative sound you’ll hear and the way it seems to wash right over you as you listen…it’s a genuinely captivating track that expertly makes the most out of a fairly minimal design.  Once again, it’s no easy task to create tunes like these, so don’t twist my words into something they’re not…to come out with anything half this flawless would take a superhuman effort.  Just so happens that it seems to always come incredibly naturally to Michael, but that’s a testament to the work he puts in.

You could also cite stuff in the Dream-Pop genre too in comparison to a lot of these tunes on Regina’s new record.  While the title-track might have a bit more pep in its step than something you’d normally find in a band like Cigarettes And Sex, the recipe itself really ain’t all that far removed and a track like “Beyond The Pale” could easily be a not-too-distant cousin of a vibe like that.  In any event, that’s probably been my favorite band of the past couple years, so anything that would remind me of them or resemble a similar style is certainly going to get a thumbs up from me.  Did I mention that I dig what this Michael Regina dude does when it comes to the art of making music and his impeccable production yet?  I have?  Oh!  Good good…just wanted to make sure I haven’t missed out on saying that.  I know, I know – I mention it like every single song…but the proof is right there in the pudding as they say – when you have a listen, you’ll realize that nothing I’ve said is hyperbolic.  This dude just gets it in ways that others don’t, and it’s because of his own innate connection to music that he yields such extraordinary results.  It’s likely similar to a spiritual release of sorts for him…I think Michael’s music is wonderfully expressive and he’s always had the ability to speak through his music without having to use a single word.  Besides, that’s where I come in with a whole bunch of those things for you to read anyway – music is his art, and writing is mine.  “Beyond The Pale” is another great atmospherically-infused groove that you can feel – I could definitely see that this would very likely be one of the cuts at the top of people’s lists of favorites.

For an electro-based artist, Regina sure gets some remarkable drum sounds into what he creates.  Not that you wouldn’t have a ton of palettes to pull great sounds from of course, but he really seems to know exactly what he wants, and when it makes a move with his music, it’s deliberate, you know what I mean?  Dude uses precision to his advantage…he’s like a surgeon when it comes the art of crafting his songs, and that’s exactly why you’ll never hear anything you’d feel needs to change.  It’d be extremely tough, if not outright impossible, to find something that could be improved on in Regina’s music, and that in itself is an incredible achievement.  His attention to detail is always on-point, and that’s really all we can ever ask for as listeners…from there, it’s simply a matter of personal taste and what speaks to us most as we experience his music – we’re always going to have our favorites, but with the quality control he adds to his songs, he gives each of them a chance at becoming one of the tunes we like best.  “Dim The Sun” is a very majestic, very epic type of song…quite likely the cut you could point to that seems the most like it could be a part of a major film production or soundtrack.  Perhaps that makes it a bit less of a standalone tune in a few ways…maybe…I don’t know how everyone would feel, I can only speak for myself, and I still dig this.  “Dim The Sun” still feels like it could thrive on a playlist of vividly ambient or instrumental tunes…but yeah…I’d definitely say that it could totally enhance something to watch too.

I feel similarly to “When We Rise” too…but I suppose if I really wanted to make a soundtrack argument for any of these songs, for the most part, I could.  I love that spot around the 2:40 mark of “When We Rise” that’s like Michael’s own drum drop-in akin to “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins – it’s a BIG moment in this song, and it definitely stands out as the main transition point.  I’d again, readily cite the fact that it’s every bit as much The Cure despite that particular moment reminding every one of us that listens of Phil’s legendary tune…but I’m happy with both of those comparisons, and that’s good company to be keeping in either scenario for sure.  Up until that pivotal switch in this song, I was starting to wonder if “When We Rise” was doing enough to secure the attention of the everyday listener out there…so to me, that moment with the drums coming in was downright crucial.  I like the gradual build for sure – but at the same time, I’d have to acknowledge that it really feels like we’ve just got the one “To Be Home” on this record by comparison to a whole lot of more ambient-driven songs on Beyond The Pale.  It’s usually right around the point of “When We Rise” that I’d feel myself looking for another melodically-driven tune, but then those drums would hit, and I’d find myself satisfied with how “When We Rise” chooses to morph into the next phase of its structure from there on in.  Some of the very best drum sounds on the entire record are found in this tune, and lord knows I’ve already praised them a lot throughout the course of this album’s lineup, so that should tell ya something…great rhythm in this cut.

Like I’ve been saying all along, listening to music of any kind really comes down to what you’re receptive to.  For instance, I like “Passages” a LOT…to the point where I could practically write an essay on this one tune and keep you here for another week just reading about it.  That being said, I think context matters every bit as much as the layout of a record can as well…and I think there’s a bit of risk in having “Passages” appear right after “When We Rise” and “Dim The Sun” even before that.  Beyond The Pale is a sleepier album overall for Regina’s tunes…and that ain’t a bad thing by any measure, but it does become a more mood-dependent type of thing – make sense?  Like if you were ridin’ high and full of energy throughout the day, you might not necessarily be so inclined to put Beyond The Pale on – but if you were feeling contemplative or emotional, it could very well be the perfect album to reach for.  I suppose that makes it a moodier record in a way…but I think ultimately most are.  What makes something like Beyond The Pale different in that regard, would be that I’d guess there are less moods that this would potentially appeal to.  Again, that’s fine – you know when you want to reach for a record like this one, and I think there are plenty of days where I know that I would.  A track like “Passages” has tremendous meditative qualities to it, and a spiritually enriching, soulful sound…it might seem a little more melancholy to a degree to some I suppose, but to others I’m sure it would sound inspired.  Really just depends on who you are, the type of day you’re having, and the kind of natural filter you listen with.

Something like “No Stopping Us” would likely be regarded as one of the most universal tracks on Beyond The Pale – I could pretty much see everyone digging this track, and I think it was definitely about time that Michael brought back a more melodically-driven tune to help restore the balance & keep everyone engaged.  I know for myself personally, I felt like I needed “No Stopping Us” at this point in the record despite enjoying this lineup of songs as much as I have…it’s not quite up to the level of “To Be Home” for me, but it’s not too far behind it either.  Y’all get the main difference, right?  Basically, you’ve got a whole lot of atmospherically-based instrumentals that aren’t necessarily centered around a main theme, hook, or melody that we can hang onto…and it’s generally one of those elements that’s gonna make music memorable for ya, no matter who you’re listening to.  It’s usually the main difference between music we’d put on in the background versus music we’re paying our undivided attention to.  A track like “No Stopping Us” should have no problem at all gaining your attention or approval…I think it’s easily one of my own favorites on this album and I’m just as confident that it’d be one of yours too.  The melody is too darn good to be ignored…playful, beautiful, malleable…”No Stopping Us” feels upbeat and inspired.

You factor in a little funk in the mix with “Space For The Soul” at the end, and you almost have to wonder what has kept Michael from adding in tunes like these last two a little earlier on in the lineup.  I wouldn’t even say that “Space For The Soul” is necessarily my favorite of the bunch, but the energy is vibrant, lively, and great to listen to…I definitely feel like there were points on Beyond The Pale that would have massively benefitted from a shot of upbeat vibes like we experience in these last tracks.  Quality-wise, he’s every bit as consistent as he’s ever been…but it’s probably fair to say that this particular album is more defined by its slower tunes than the ones with bounce to’em, even though if you were to look at it on paper, it’s a fairly even split.  Sometimes it comes down to the lineup and the layout when it comes to how a recording is going to be received on the other side of the speakers, and in that regard, I think that Beyond The Pale might have been able to find a little more variation as it hit the second half…seven through nine are great tunes, but definitely an energy that requires stamina to stick with.  Other than that, I think it’s another stellar record to add to Michael’s catalog that confirms his remarkable consistency as a producer and artist again, his limitless ideas, and wide scope of sound.

Find out more about Michael Regina at his official website at:  https://www.michaelregina.com

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