Michael Regina – Zentronique – Album Review
Here’s an album that’s been in heavy rotation for me ever since I got my hands on it!
Awesome to have this guy back in action…Michael Regina has an immaculate ear for sound and always manages to generate thrills even in the most chilled-out settings. He’s verifiably wowed us in the past with records we’ve reviewed like A Far Better World in 2018 and Stargazer the year after – and returning with another dose of high-quality atmospherically-inclined astral audio awesomeness for us all to enjoy, he’s back in 2020 with a brand-new album called Zentronique. I ain’t gonna lie to ya & some of you already know…I’m a political junkie when I’m not listening to music; and while that still leaves me little time to get into all that, obviously this last week has been an enormous stress on the psyche of the planet at-large…having Zentronique here on repeat to get me through it all has been a tremendous help! And perhaps it’ll have the same cathartic effect on all you good souls out there too…so I’m here to share what I’ve learned in listening & give you an enthusiastic green-light to check this album out for yourself.
Pushing play was an instant reminder of just how fantastic Michael Regina really is. LISTEN to the way the drums work their magic on ya as “Frontiers” begins – this is a sound that delivers on exactly what its title implies & the imagery you’ll see in your mind. It sounds like the dawn of a new beginning, the journey of discovery, hope, possibility…the blissful unknown & the courage to charge right into the light headfirst without a second thought…it’s all of this and so much more – “Frontiers” is a powerful way to start out a record and get ears invested quickly in what’s to come. Part tribal, part exploratory space-like sounds…”Frontiers” walks a really interesting line between what sounds like the souls of our ancestors guiding the heartbeat of this song, all while Michael seems to be taking us all on a voyage straight into the future at the same time as Zentronique begins. However you’d personally describe the warm & inviting glow and sensational gravitational pull towards Regina’s music is fine by me & I’m sure it’s just as fine by him…as long as you’re listening, that is! “Frontiers” is loaded with the kind of drama and exquisite push/pull of tension between realms of sound…it makes for a gripping beginning that tells your ears you’re likely in-store for something seriously epic…and believe me when I say, they ain’t lyin’ to ya. It’s as plain as the ears upon your face – you listen to a song like “Frontiers” and almost instantly sigh in relief, calmed by the fact that you can hear how focused & well assembled every moment truly is. His professionalism sets you at ease just as much as the sounds of his songs do…it’s all quite remarkable.
While doing my level-best to be objective, I also have no problem tellin’ y’all that I pretty much expect excellence when it comes to the music of Michael Regina. Does “The Gates” confirm he’s amazing at what he does? Sure – if you didn’t know his music yet. But I didn’t need that at this point in being familiar with much of his catalog and dedicated approach to his craft; I don’t expect excellence because I’m a snob & my standards are ridiculous – I expect excellence from Regina because that’s ALL he’s ever shown me in the music he’s made since I first started listening! So…yes…sure, “The Gates” will absolutely convince you he’s as killer as I claim…but it’s more of a confirmation that everything you’ll find on Zentronique has him meeting or exceeding his own incredibly high standards set in the past, you dig? It’s like…we KNOW Michael’s gifted – it’s more about how he chooses to use that gift – and within a mere two songs into the lineup of Zentronique, he confirms he’s using it all to its maximum potential. His stoic pace on this second tune leads him straight to victory…every tone, every note…it all seems so definitive, confident, and bold, no matter how gentle or delicate the atmosphere becomes. I think the synthetic soundscape he’s designed here glows like the aurora borealis does – the natural crystalline sound that the music has combined with the brilliant sheen of the metallic beat & percussion was a wonderfully innovative move on Michael’s part, and another clever decision that proves he can bring it to multiple dimensions of style & sound and find undeniable success through his instincts & creativity.
Part of doing this whole music-review thing is to point out what we might not know about the music being made out there, part of it’s about reasons why you’d wanna listen to something or the artistic merit it has…and then sometimes, you listen a track like “All Good Things” and you realize it’s songs like the one you’re listening to that truly define the soundtrack of our lives. Led by piano and the warm glow of the synth surrounding him, Michael puts in a time-stopping, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring highlight into the record on the third track in, with “All Good Things” being so good, that I know I’d have no problem whatsoever in claiming it’s easily one of the best songs I’ve heard this year without hesitation. It’s such a pure example of everything going right…every note being right where you’d want to find it…each moment feeling like it’s been a part of you all along, just waiting to be discovered – you feel “All Good Things” connect straight to your heartstrings…and if you’re anything like me, you’ll never want it to leave you. I will remember many great things about this record, I will always remember Michael Regina for being the incredible artist he is – and even with all that being true, I can tell ya there’s still a level beyond all that, where you can’t define a moment as anything other than ESSENTIAL to your LIFE afterwards…and that’s what listening to “All Good Things” is like. I don’t want to be on a planet that doesn’t have this song now that I know it exists – and thankfully, clearly I don’t have to worry about that – but you get the point…now that this song has become a part of my life, I’m never giving it up. It can be much tougher to recognize where the ‘single’ is on instrumental & Electro albums…not impossible, but tougher; and a song like “All Good Things” makes the choice as radiantly clear as can be through melody that could penetrate the hardest of hearts, with endearing vibes that’ll be embraced by all who listen.
“Connections” is a deep cut! It’s also a remarkable response in transition in the context of the flow of songs throughout Zentronique to be truthful. No joke – it was gonna be monumentally tough for ANY song to stand out to me after what I felt like I just experienced on “All Good Things” just prior…to think that Michael would be able to follow that incredible gem up with something that’d keep me equally engaged and still locked in tight was a gigantic ask! Yet here we are, “Connections” is playing, and the results have been tabulated – the verdict is more than favorable – this is another excellent track in the lineup of this record and a smooth transition out of the melodic-driven sound of “All Good Things” into a sleek & rhythmic night-time drivin’ tune right afterwards. It’s the longest cut on the album by over a minute in length, going the distance to nearly six-minutes – but you certainly won’t find me complaining. The production is as stellar as always, the bass-lines that rumble & roll throughout the majority of this song are masterfully placed in the mix and allow the crispness of the snare & shimmer of the atmospheric elements surrounding it all to stand out & truly shine. Solid & steady pace, an excellent selection of stealthy sound, and a pulsing rhythm that keeps the intensity bubbling with energy brilliantly underneath the surface as “Connections” glides along. A lot of people out there still don’t believe they can be moved by music without words believe it or not…I’d be well-inclined to point them all in the direction of Michael Regina and this new album he’s got right here as proof they’re all insane.
But the quest was on you see…not that I ever spend too much time being concerned about whether or not an artist or band will surpass an immaculate highlight like “All Good Things” early on in the lineup of an album…but it is always a thought in the back of my mind & I’m sure that works the same for many of you. Will Michael have an even better song later on? Will Regina’s record continue to impress? Will I personally ever stop spinning this record? So many questions right? Tune in tomorrow folks, same bat-time, same bat-channel… Alright I’m kidding…I’m not leaving you hanging right here. This is what I’ll tell ya – from the moment “Human Condition” began, I knew the potential was there to find something that might rival the degree of attachment I felt towards “All Good Things” – and I think this is definitely close enough to be mentioned with that same degree of admiration & respect for the powerful depth you’ll find in this composition. I loved how this audible story seemed to unfold…Michael approaches this one with an expert hand, carefully guiding us through nearly ninety-seconds worth of delicate sound building, before expanding it with a giant drum sound akin to what we experienced on “Frontiers” at the start, bringing that epic nature of the atmosphere straight back into the mix for ya. Ultimately, after repeated spins, I know I’d probably side with “All Good Things” as the most likely to engage the hearts & minds of any song on this album…but like I said, “Human Condition” isn’t all that far off from the top. Regina takes his time to really let this melody work its magic on ya…all-in-all, you’ll find “Human Condition” to be one of the most hypnotic & mesmerizing cuts on this record as a result of its steady pace and clever slow build to its full-bodied structure. It might be slower sure, but that doesn’t mean Michael skimps on the details…in fact tracks like “Human Condition” prove the opposite is true; he gets the fact that in the sparsest moments, we’re left wide out in the open for scrutiny – and with the focus he applies to every inch of his material & every ticking second of sound, he never once lets you down.
Even when I got to the title-track “Zentronique,” I still felt like this whole album continually managed to build on itself more & more in all the right ways – the flow of this record is impeccably fluid. Sure I might be really, really attached to “All Good Things” as I’m sure you’ve picked up on by now – but for as different as the style, pace, movement, and vibes are in comparison to “Zentronique” – it’s awesome to get so many varying degrees of awesomeness & such a vibrant selection of sound, you feel me? What I’m saying is…I probably love just about every track on this record nearly equally; we’d be splitting the finest of hairs on personal preference perhaps for the ultimate favorite to be found & nothing more. If you ask me, I’m ready, willing, and able to jam “Zentronique” as loud & proud as I would be any other on this album – and believe me when I say I have been, happily, at full volume. The low-key club vibes come through in crystal clear stereo when it comes to Regina’s title-track…there aren’t any songs on this album that I can point to where I’d think people would struggle to follow Michael down the rabbit hole, but at the same time, you’ll notice the degree of appeal on “Zentronique” has that much more accessibility with a bit more pep in its step, a jazzy sound & movement to it, and its upbeat demeanor. Basically, what Regina’s got for ya as the centerpiece of his record, is one of the tracks on this album I’d say stands the chance of being the most readily accepted, verifiably enjoyed by all, & consistently spun.
“Maxim M Chill” is another excellent display of Michael’s gift for maxing a mix that has all the right textures & sensory elements working their magic on ya. It’s about layering…it’s about space…it’s about making extremely wise & clever choices and knowing where that line is between too full & just enough – and I don’t know how the man manages to harness all these things as skillfully as he does, but when you listen to the results, there’s no way you’d question whatever his methods may be. I felt like “Zentronique” coming right beforehand was a great switch that occurs right in the middle of this record that really sets up the next whole series of tracks by morphing the sound ever so slightly in the direction of more atmospherically-inspired grooves, and you get the instant rewards of that decision making as you carry on sliding through “Maxim M Chill,” “In The Ether,” and “Hybrid” to follow. Each of these tunes bring a wonderfully addictive set of hooks to the mix, and though it’s all pretty low-key in the display of moods & energy, you can absolutely still connect with the vibes Michael Regina is creating without question. Like I was tellin’ ya earlier – you feel what this guy makes in his music – an upbeat cut like “Maxim M Chill” even speaks to that…you get right on into the rhythm & groove of this track, 100%. Taking you on another quality trip right afterwards “In The Ether” – Regina continues to demonstrate excellence from the lefts to the rights and award-worthy control over every move he makes. You simply can’t find fault in what the man brings to your speakers…when this artist drops an album, it’s well-worth your time & attention, and songs like “In The Ether” are full proof of why that is. A track like this might not even be the immediate stand-out cut for many in comparison to some of the other shinier tunes in the lineup – but I can guarantee ya that anyone listening wouldn’t be turning it off any time soon, you dig? Tracks like you’ll find comin’ atcha after the title-track on this record do a ton to expand the atmospheric vibes flowing throughout this record. “Hybrid” is another example there for ya on clear display; between songs seven & nine, you’ll take a decisive turn into interstellar melodies that hit the mark with their combined sense of mystery & curiously shifting sounds. In particular, you’ll likely find a tune like “Hybrid” reminds you of the exploratory & chill style that Boards Of Canada work so well within – and clearly Michael does too. I put these three songs in this same section of the review to highlight what seems like the same reason they occur in the lineup one after the other; they belong together. In particular though, Regina really manages to work the hypnotic grooves and captivating enchantment of his digital style in extremely engaging ways to keeps you fully mesmerized & locked onto every moment.
From what we can tell from his albums in the past & certainly this one included…Regina’s always had his head not just in the clouds, but far, far above, way out there in the stratosphere…thematically-speaking, of course. It’s only natural that many of the songs you’ll find represent the dreamer inside the man making the music & such an atmospheric aura to the records he puts out there. “Communion” is practically emblematic of what this man is capable of in his combinations of emotion, melody, and meaningful music…you feel the instrumentals of Michael Regina right in the core of your soul, as I’ve mentioned numerous times I’m sure by now. It doesn’t make it any less true folks, promise ya that! Sometimes he’ll create stuff that’ll make you wanna dance…sometimes it’ll make you wanna cry even…and then sometimes, you’ll discover tunes like “Communion,” “Human Condition,” and “All Good Things” where you can’t help but sit intently, marveling at every single second you hear like you’re frozen in place. You get that tingle down your spine that tells ya biologically that you’re listening to something special – and quite honestly, while it’s a feeling you’ll find you get multiple times as you listen to anything by Michael Regina, he really has pulled out all the stops on Zentronique to ensure this whole experience in listening to this lineup is as well-rounded, flawless, and genuinely entertaining as can be. The organ that starts out “Communion” gives it that extra tie-in between its title & sound, and before long, you’re quickly set adrift into the soaring melody that takes over around the forty-five second mark. “Communion” floats along dreamily from there, subtly working its charm through a melody that takes its time to develop and give you every opportunity to appreciate just how carefully it’s been composed. The results come out with a mix of fragility & strength…like the weary hero that has just won the battle but knows there is still so much more to be done. The battle can wait for tomorrow; today we enjoy the splendor of beauty & the spirit of love on “Communion,” and take a moment to appreciate all we share.
“Hello Together” was great! I mean…for real, I’ve got no complaints. This whole record full of stellar instrumentals & stunning digital creations has been a remarkable ride from the moment we all push play – and to end this album on such a set of pleasant rhythms & grooves like this was a genius move. I definitely don’t think every artist or band out there should save their ‘best’ song for the end of an album – it just needs to serve as a proper finale somehow and encourage us to come on back, and I felt like that was everything “Hello Together” accomplished with ease. It’s as friendly to your ears as the title implies it would be to your eyes – “Hello Together” coasts along on smooth grooves, almost like an afterthought to a degree, but without any dip in quality of sound or content…it’s just a chill moment in time that we all get to universally enjoy at the end of this album – and who on Earth would object to that? There hasn’t been a solitary second of this record that I didn’t enjoy…and when it comes to composition, production, ideas, structure, and sound…I mean…Michael’s proved what a professional he truly is from the lefts to the rights on every opportunity he’s had throughout the distance of this whole entire lineup of songs! So I’m not saying he checked out right before the end here on “Hello Together” at all – I’m saying he’s earned a break after all the effort he’s put in…and this last tune sounds like the pure satisfaction that comes along with knowing the job was done to the best of his abilities. Just so happens his abilities & talents are pretty much superhuman…Michael Regina has an incredible ear for sound and a master’s grip on how to make his instrumental music on Zentronique genuinely move you.
Find music & more info about Michael Regina at his official website at: https://www.michaelregina.com
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