En Route

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The line that separates jazz-electronica from "smooth jazz" (or, let's be honest, from plain old easy listening) can be a treacherously thin one. It's the line that separates Weather Report from, say, Spyro Gyra, and many artists drawn to that borderland end up becoming forever lost in the shifting sands of watered-down funk grooves and wind chimes. Four80East navigate the line pretty well, and if they occasionally stray onto the syrupy side, you get the feeling that they don't really care as long as the grooves are fun and the melodies are attractive -- which they really are, almost all the time. "Five by Five" opens the album on an interesting and funky note, and is quickly followed by the all too aptly titled "Noodle Soup," a tune that is perhaps just a bit too silky and a bit too infused with synthesized strings (and wind chimes). But "Double Down" generates a darker and edgier mood, and "Easy Come, Easy Go" flirts nicely with reggae. "Closer" is an example of a song that dances around the edges of goopiness -- the "ha ha hey hey" vocals are just kind of silly, though most of the other elements in that track are fairly engaging. En Route is a very pleasant listening experience overall, even if parts of it are more soothing than interesting.

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