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World Music CD Reviews Europe

CLAUDE CHALLE

By JUDSON KILPATRICK
Published April 19, 2006

Near Eastern Lounge
Shakti/Virgin/EMI

A longtime fixture on the French fashion, music and club scene, Claude Challe is perhaps most famous for compiling the first two Buddha Bar collections, named after the popular Parisian nightspot where he was resident DJ. Mixing house music with Eastern influences was hardly innovative, but Challe has a great ear for blending smoothly disparate elements, drawing from a wide range of sources. Challe’s latest project features three Beirut DJs: R.E.G. (the album’s subtitle) stands for Ralph Khoury, Elie Barber and Guy Manoukian. Here they have crafted a slick instrumental mix that flows from soft, moody ambient/chill to frantic 4/4 house music and back again. The songs are full of Arabic melodies and instrumentation, but the hooks are familiar enough for crossover appeal. Every track is beautiful, making this one of the more interesting releases among many dance music collections.