Michael Regina – Stargazer – Album Review
The warm glow of synths that springs to life before the ninety-second mark of Michael Regina’s “Orbit Epoch” that opens up his latest album Stargazer was the perfect reminder of what this soundscape artist is capable of. As vivid as a three-dimensional painting, the dazzling colors in the music and melody float through the air like vapor trails, leading you curiously from moment to moment. You can hear different effects and frequencies bouncing off in the distance as you launch into “Orbit Epoch,” and the warm glow that soon joins in with the pulsing synth sounds like the sun rising, filling the atmosphere with love and light. I love the amount of mysterious melody that this first song goes on to reveal…it’s beautiful stuff for sure, but also compelling to the ears in a way that makes you fully curious as to where the album will turn next & how Stargazer will play out over its set-list. Ultimately, that’s totally what you want in an opening tune…you want something that sparks the interest, the want, and the will to keep on listening and discover what else is in-store for us. “Orbit Epoch” audibly supplies the authentic feeling that we’re embarking into something special…the dawning of an experience we didn’t even know we needed to have as much as we truly did…and now we’re here, floating along with Regina as we trek off towards the unknown, happily drifting with sweet exploratory sounds of possibility, hope, and wonder.
Come on now…you couldn’t listen to “Miss Twilight” and not want to get in on this. The highest points of the melody hit the mark the most on-target and bring out the heart in this song, while the lower-end of the synths end up bringing a more mysterious mood into the atmosphere. I’m a self-professed melody addict, so for myself personally, it was the main hook of the keys up-top that had the most appeal to my ears if we’re examining this tune piece by piece…and I’m not saying you have to, not saying you should do that necessarily in all the music you listen to, but if you do dissect it, you might end up picking a side or a favorite piece of this puzzle you enjoy most by default. That big beat combined with the contrasting chilled-out sound throughout “Miss Twilight” makes for an inviting & entertaining listen to begin with – and whenever Michael sprinkles the sparkle of the main melodic hook overtop, this song takes a huge leap from good to great. Structurally, it’s a very sound tune…as much as I might personally want a whole lot more of those gorgeously melodic keys, Regina’s shows solid restraint in keeping those moments parsed out & not overusing the biggest hook in “Miss Twilight.” Definitely a song that connects overall, the degree of accessibility in an instrumental like this is likely higher than you’d think; it’s songs like these that have the potential to reach a wide audience that prove words aren’t always a necessary ingredient. While it can always be harder to pick a single from an instrumentally-based record, I’d be taking a look at “Miss Twilight” and the large potential it has in that regard for certain.
The exceptional beauty you can hear flowing into the sound of “Fly With You” is highly intriguing at the same time. When those drums come in about a minute into the song, you really end up appreciating just how much they add to the experience and take nothing away from the serenity that comes along with this third cut on Stargazer. Same thing around the 2:25 mark after the breakdown – Michael’s got this song staged perfectly for the structure to flow naturally and truly deliver. At the same time, I dig that there’s a complexity to “Fly With You” that really seems to make it much less typical than other songs in the instrumental section that would go for a similar vibe…what Regina is creating is interesting to the ears, you feel me? He has the ability to make the brain move in time with the heart – “Fly With You” will set you adrift in your own thoughts while you still completely feel the way this melody resonates inside you as you listen. The piano is exceptional, filled with bold tones that lead the way through the stunning atmospheric sound surrounding us and the way that “Fly With You” envelops & wraps us up in such a comforting vibe.
I really think that, when it comes to instrumental records, when you hear something that genuinely speaks to you, it’s something you can feel…it’s something you know in your bones resonates with your soul. The beginning of “Astral Call” gave me that feeling…that knowing of hearing something special that doesn’t come along every day…listen to how the melody morphs around the 2:40 mark, and the absolutely breathtaking and beautiful sound that this song goes on to create…extraordinary, fascinating, graceful…this is an extremely moving song at its core, and a real highlight inside the first half of Regina’s Stargazer. You’ll find after listening, that the beginning of “Astral Call” bears some similarities to the final track called “Desolate” as well through its selection of sounds…and believe me when I say, if you like one of these tunes, you’ll certainly like the other as a result…if you ask me, it’s a completely addictive sound that Michael’s latched onto. It’s like the outer-space version of a theme like “Midnight Cowboy” in a way…something to that effect, where the mix of haunting melody and pure beauty combine to create an experience that sticks with you so hard you’d never be able to wash it off. That’s because tunes like that, and like “Astral Call” and “Desolate” to follow, fully invade your soul. And unless you’ve got some advice on what detergent or soap to wash a soul with and where exactly is the best place to scrub it from…then you get what I mean – “Astral Call” speaks to what’s on the inside of us…it’s music you can feel.
Ok! Now that…THAT right there, is a slick beginning – listen to the opening of “Venus Glow” and you’ll instantly know exactly what I mean when you hear the low-end groove this song is working with. Sly and sleekly designed, I’m not gonna lie to ya, I probably would have been happy with that synthetic bass-line for the full nearly five minutes of “Venus Glow” even if it was naked on its own. What’s amazing to me about this song, is that again, depending on how you listen to it and what you take away from it, it might very well take a couple listens for you to actually experience hearing the song as a whole – does that make any sense? Like in the case of “Venus Glow,” I fell in love with the low-end groove so hard that I barely noticed how much atmospheric awesomeness was being sprinkled on the surface. Next time I made a more concentrated effort to catch what I missed the first time around, and by that third spin, I was actually listening to the entire song as one unit. The brain works in mysterious ways…I can’t explain why I think the way I do, but I can explain what the process is like at least. “Venus Glow” is one of the longer cuts on Stargazer, but likely one of the most welcome vibes in terms of its allure and accessibility…it might be subtle, it might be ultra-chill, but make no mistake, it’s hard to resist. If I was going for a single release on this record to put out there for the masses to lead them in, I’d be looking at tracks like “Venus Glow” & “Miss Twilight” for sure…there’s a lot of universal appeal in both.
What I liked a lot about songs like “Moment M” that might not even be in my own favorites from this record, is how much they still contribute to the lineup, flex the diversity in sound, and still offer something well worthwhile to experience, even if you end up digging the surrounding cuts even more. Read the title of this track again carefully, and you’ll know what you’re in-store for with this tune from Stargazer – Michael elevates the pulse and energy of “Moment M” and gets the album moving more quickly as it nears its mid-point. It’s a tougher one to examine in the sense that this track really locks into its groove and continues to rock it fairly stoically from there on; so on the one hand, “Moment M” feels like it changes up less as a result, but at the same time stays locked onto sounds you’re bound to love. Weird right? The more you get into “Moment M” the more you’ll appreciate just how much it really does move and shift around, and just how subtly & professionally those moves are made. What I can tell ya is, whereas I might be more attracted to cuts like “Desolate” at the end of the album, or “Astral Call” from earlier on – there will likely be a ton of people that are much more into a song with the pep in its step like “Moment M.” Doesn’t mean one’s better than the others, just plays into personal taste & what people like is all – when it comes to the performance & production end of things, Michael’s got this all locked down and designed these songs to be fully enjoyed…now it’s up to you to enjoy’em!
“Beautiful Wings” is indeed, a beautiful song. Gentle and delicate, Regina sticks to a timeless approach to instrumentalism here, bringing in big sweeping synth sounds and a healthy dose of audible melody designed to melt the heart and soothe the soul. When Michael wants to head out into the atmosphere and into space, he’ll do it – and the same is true when he wants to create a completely grounded melody that everyone can connect with, which is what you’ll find you hear on “Beautiful Wings.” It still carries a largely imaginative & creative sound overall, but listen to how the melody at the heart of this song will reach out from your speakers and create instant serenity around ya. As he’s done successfully throughout this whole record, you’ll hear “Beautiful Wings” start to shift its direction subtly as it heads towards the second minute, and again towards the end at around the 2:40 mark…and while they might be slight moves, they’re an important factor in what keeps us listening and fully invested in the moment. The shimmering sparkle in “Beautiful Wings” never dulls; if anything, it’s remarkably consistent at retaining its beauty, and still able to change enough to keep us completely engaged in its entire length.
I definitely felt like “The Colony” was one of the album’s strongest songs for sure. There’s such a brilliant mix of fantasy-based sound and down-to-earth emotion, that “The Colony” really ends up feeling like we’re on an adventure to unearth a new audio experience…it’s a genuinely remarkable composition that glows in & out like a candle flickers, in the window of a cabin, far out in the woods. Or in the context of space-themes, maybe it’s the light way off in the distance in the galaxy that confirms once & for all that we’re not alone. The bottom line is, Michael’s reached right into the outer-realm to yield spectacularly engaging results – “The Colony” is another highlight example of how Regina makes use of space, pacing, and sound-selection to make the experience work. Every sound serves a purpose, everything included is something that can genuinely be heard and contributes to the song, and it’s because of all this, that every moment we hear on songs like “The Colony” keeps our attention in-full. Much like how the opening track “Orbit Epoch” leaves us feeling, “The Colony” also feels like the dawn of discovery…like an audible respect for experiencing the true awesomeness & expanse of the galaxy. When it comes to the accessibility of the masses, I know there’s no argument to be made for a song like this to be put out there as a single in comparison to something with the hooks of say, “Venus Glow” or “Miss Twilight” – but the high-art expressionism found in the music being made here by Michael deserves your time equally for its conceptual efforts and authentic adventurism into exploratory sound.
The title-track, “Stargazer,” would be a pretty tough song not to love. Gorgeous piano melody, warm synth strings set beside it…it’s such a short song on the album and yet such an essential inclusion. Fascinating like staring right into a music-box, “Stargazer” gently reveals a spectacular melody that you’ll definitely want a whole lot more of than the less-than 2:30 you’ll get. Sometimes as a music reviewer, we get songs like this one that end up on our playlists whereby just listening to it once has you wondering how anyone out there wouldn’t like a tune like “Stargazer” – when we talk about truly mesmerizing sound, this would be a perfect example to point towards. It’s to the point where I wouldn’t know much of what else to say beyond ‘it’s beautiful – go listen to it right now!’ and just leave it at that. I ain’t gonna lie…less-than two minutes & thirty-seconds is far too little of such a magnificent moment; the album’s title-track will have you appreciating the functionality of the repeat button on your playlist.
Michael really has the gift of being able to communicate emotion through music, and provide people with songs that could mend a broken soul or two. Listening to the downright spiritual sound of how “Luna Symphony” flows, expands, and concludes is like a triumph of storytelling through song – Regina takes you to a whole other world with this song and keeps your attention locked onto every subtle moment. Sounds like a simple recipe of any great tune right? Not so much – “Luna Symphony” is exceptionally subtle and delicate…almost to the point where you likely wouldn’t expect the lasting impact it’ll probably end up making on ya. There’s been a slightly Post-Punk thread that seems to run through the undercurrent of the melodies on some of these tunes…maybe it’s just me, but I’m hearing how the synths and atmospheres could nearly fit right into something from The Cure’s Disintegration at times – it’s that powerful level of depth and sweeping emotion that you’ll find in the swirl of sound created on “Luna Symphony.” There have been a lot of glorious & epic moments throughout Stargazer – and there’s not a doubt in my mind that “Luna Symphony,” even buried this deep & late into the lineup, is yet another highlight and all-out extraordinary song to be found on this record full of memorable cuts.
“Nightscape” sounds like what the title implies…it’s an audible shadow, looming large through your speakers. Smartly including twisted vocal samples and whispers at points along the way, “Nightscape” sounds about as dark as your mind will take you; if you’re the type to think only pleasant thoughts, you’ll easily find the beauty that exists smoldering in the sound of this song – if you’re the type of person to just need a simple push towards the dark side of your thoughts & emotions, “Nightscape” will provoke you in that direction instead – and it’ll do both of those things without apologies. It’s a well mapped-out song that retains a solid mix of mystery and melody joined together at all times; “Nightscape” is perfectly designed for those late-night hours and blood-moons. Smart additions like the bells in the final minute give just enough of a twist to the end of this track to make a finale out of it – but for the most-part, it’s clear that “Nightscape” needs little to no assistance in being any more engaging than it already is – you get locked into this vibe quickly, and Regina expertly keeps you there on the edge of your seat.
The magic of Michael Regina is immaculate when it can be just as entertaining as it is all-out fascinating – a combination of which he’s not only pulled off throughout the vast majority of this album, but also in particular, its final track, “Desolate.” So stunning it could truly move you to tears – from the time it begins to the time you realize just how much weight there is within the airy atmospheric heart at the center of this tune, you could verifiably need windshield wipers for your leaking face if you’re not careful. You get the idea I’m sure – “Desolate” packs in a noteworthy amount of sincerity and emotion – and we’ve all had one of those days where a song can send you spiraling into your thoughts and a whole lot of Kleenex…just know the potential for that in this final track definitely exists – you’ve been warned. It’s emotionally provocative, and that’s what I love about this last song the most…it’s what I love in many of the songs that Michael creates…but specifically, in “Desolate” with that…man…I don’t even know what creates the sound I love so much…maybe it’s a synthesized harmonica or theremin, I honestly don’t have a clue – but it’s absolutely hypnotic and entirely beautiful. Like I had mentioned earlier with “Astral Call,” I think there are similarities to be found in between the two songs – but you’ll hear no complaints from me when it comes to anything like that – in fact, I’d take a full album built of tracks like “Astral Call” and “Desolate.” The last half of this final track rocks my world in the most delicate of ways…”Desolate” becomes such a rich tapestry of sounds woven together…you have to call a song like this exactly what it is, and that’s art. Michael reveals a master’s grip on composition and composed emotions on Stargazer’s last moments…he’s got another wonderful record to listen to here.
Find out more about Michael Regina at his official website at: https://www.michaelregina.com
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