“In Line for Shawarma is a musical project that spans the globe and takes a look into the mind of a simple American boy who is dropped in the middle of Beirut, Lebanon and left to discover the wonders of the Middle East through wine, chicken and song.”
Now, that’s a movie I’d go see. Only this is the tagline for a new album by the Fish Herders, a band who have been making music in the Albany area in various configurations for the past 25 years. Featuring Darren Douglas Danahy, Kelley Donovan and Mitch Messmore, the record is an impressionistic recount of the two years Messmore lived in Beirut. While not exactly narrative, the concept provides a compelling mythology for these 19 tracks to work within, with a few sidelong glances at what were probably actual episodes (“The Trouble With Public Transportation,” “Cats in Dog Poop Alley,” “Is There a Movie on This Flight,” etc.).
Atmospheric electronics and fragmented vocal samples couch loungy grooves and jazz fusion flights of fancy, with tabla and didgeridoo lending the palette a vaguely Middle Eastern world-music vibe. Space rock, funk, drum ’n’ bass, prog, fusion and dub reggae are all touchstones here, without crossing over entirely into the realm of livelectronic jamband music. At their most Eastern and dancey, the band can sound a bit like psytrance freaks Shpongle, while at their jazziest, Boston world groove collective Club d’Elf come to mind.
It’s the kind of music that’s built for spaced-out late-night afterparties, but might be just as well on a winter walk in the woods with a really good pair of headphones. Beirut is starting to sound kind of nice this time of year, “Traffic Jam” and “City Cow” aside.