The Incredible Moses Leroy: Become the Soft.Lightes

[3 February 2004]

By Jason MacNeil

The Incredible Moses Leroy has always had to live up to his name. Born Ron Fountenberry, this musician’s approach to music is as invigorating and refreshing as anything that is out there today, Flaming Lips included. After releasing Electric Pocket Radio in 2001, Leroy is back with another eclectic bit of sounds and soul. And it begins with a Moby-like, techno-tinged Southern soul instrumental affair in “Welcome to the Soft.Lightes”, setting a nice and melodic start on this interesting journey. “Everybody’s Getting Down” continues this style with the odd blip and bleep, but a lot of rich audible colors permeate the tune. Leroy’s, er, Fountenberry’s voice is incredibly sweet and almost adolescent-like. And he uses the hushed tone to great effect. “If everybody knows me, why am I lonely?” he sings.

Musically, the album is all over the place, with influences such as R.E.M. and Nick Drake coming to the fore. “Transmission C” is a gem of a tune, with a cheesy ‘80s synth vibe leading the song onward. The tempo and infectious pop makes you want to hit the replay button a minute before you’re even into the song. It’s that good! And when the guitars kick in briefly, they’re pure bliss! “He’ll get the biggest piece of cake, this side of Oklahoma,” Fountenberry utters as bands like the Wondermints dance in one’s head. “The Color of Sky” is more of a late night, light-dimming romantic tune, although having vocals from Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori might not give that impression. Dreamy and leaning towards ‘60s psychedelic pop, the duet works better than anticipated.

There are a couple of instrumental-oriented tracks on the album to break things up a bit. Not all of them work however especially the atmospheric “Music Makes the Sound (of Music)” falls a bit flat early on. Trying to create a simple yet funky soul groove, it seems slightly contrived. What is not contrived one iota is the vast “Country Robot/A Letter to Dorothy”, a song perfect for those late night solitary drives. Even Fountenberry lends that idea with, “I spent a lifetime on the open road.” The “oh la la las” heard in the distance bring Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to mind. Once again the song has a tremendous flow to it which oozes into the lullaby-like “L.O.V.E.”. Fans of Michael Jackson might see a bit in first few couplets. The sugary imagery is too sappy, although it’s difficult to find much else wrong here.

“We Don’t Dance” is the nadir on the album, a layered techno-ambient effort that has monotone, robotic voices and a beat New Order left on the cutting room floor. “Can you feel the rhythm in the movement, so let’s dance,” the voice says with the enthusiasm of an embalmed C-3PO before it mercifully ends. The Incredible Moses Leroy are onto something again with “The Wonder Mic”, a simple ascending and descending sound that quotes the hokey-pokey tune for starters. Mixing the soft pop with a drum ‘n’ bass tempo is a weird but strong concoction. The oddest moment is a country flavor seeping out of “The 4a”, a nice track that again shows Fountenberry dipping into cavity-inducing vocals. The lap steel guitar, which is handled by Kristian Dunn, is a great addition to the delayed harmonies. After all of this fine music and performances from the star and his cast of musicians, including drummer and multi-instrumentalist Joey Waronker, the record culminates with “The Fourth of July”. Void of fireworks, the group blends everything that has worked brilliantly thus far and gives the record a proper sendoff. Leroy Moses might be living up to his name after all…

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