As the R.E.G. Project and its predecessor make abundantly and soulfully cool and clear, the hippest and most creative chillout music isn't limited to the confines of European clubs. The first R.E.G. Project -- three Beirut DJs named Ralph Khoury, Elie Barbar, and Guy Manoukian crafting their own interpretations of Arabic classics -- made a global smash on Claude Challe Presents: Near Eastern Lounge in 2003. Bringing an Arabic twist to the Buddha Bar/Café del Mar scene, the trio draws from heavy house and lounge music in a spectacularly funky and hypnotic fusion of East meets West. The opening track, "Catwalk (Habibi)," blends a thumping groove with ethereal female vocals, a sensuous repetition of the word "habibi," jangly guitars, and a bouncy sax. "Ourjaouwan" adds to the mix a tasty swirl of exotic percussion, soaring flutes, and stringed instruments. "Psyche Paradise" draws upon a soundscape of nature sounds and distant tribal voices to enhance a trippy atmospheric intro, then turns into a pure jungle percussion jam. A pattern emerges, mixing the groove machinery with exotic Middle Eastern touches and extra exotica, with surprises at every turn. You'll be chillin' long after the last groove stops.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran