Thoughts Beyond Words
Negative Gain Productions
David Dutton’s debut LP as genCAB, 2008’s II transMuter, was perhaps a bit ahead of its time: the US industrial project’s blend of songwriting and glossy production isn’t at all far off from the excellent records that would be released just a few years later by acts like Necro Facility, Encephalon and Comaduster. The loss of a follow-up album in a hard drive crash derailed genCAB, and it’s only now after 13 years that we’re hearing sophomore LP Thoughts Beyond Words, an LP that speaks to the project’s established strengths and Dutton’s significant strides forward as a producer, writer and performer.
An examination of early album track “Channel the Past 2021” is instructive in this regard; if you compare it to the version Dutton released as a single in 2016 the song just sounds fuller, smoother and more dynamic. The more robust sound design is assisted by a clean, spacious mix that allows room for individual instruments to move and breathe. Listening closely to album opener “You Did This” you can clearly pick out individual synthlines mirroring the bass, snatches of guitar, chopped up samples and Dutton’s own vocals, each settled exactly where the song requires them. The production is also possessed with a pleasing transparency, you don’t notice the subtle hand offs in instrumentation in the emotional “Seafoam Cemetery”, despite the numerous layers of synth and percussion the focus remains on the arrangement and melody.
Special attention should be paid to how good Dutton has become at putting songs together. The complexity of “Altar of Progress” is considerable; numerous tempo changes, multiple sections and speedy movement between them, but the song is nothing less than surefooted in its execution. That kind of intricacy in construction isn’t uncommon on the record – check the breaks and builds that lend weight and emotional import to closer “I’m Finished” – but it’s also not the rule, with Dutton knowing when to throttle back and let a simple song like “The Bridges I Burn” just play out without excessive adornment, its dynamism born more from shifts in vocal delivery than any aspect of its instrumentation.
Finally, it’s Dutton himself as a singer who defines the character of Thoughts Beyond Words. While you can hear some development in terms of his range as a vocalist, his confidence is also apparent in his choices. “Misery & Isobel” is a song that sits at the heart of the record emotionally, a ballad replete with feeling that comes through not only in its lyrics but in the plain way it’s sung. Dutton turns it up when he needs to, as on the soaring closing section of “Taper”, but he just as frequently delivers songs in a straightforward, sincere fashion. In finding a way to perform in a way that fits his ambitions as a songwriter and producer, Dutton has created an album that acts just as that: a proper album, with all the craft that implies. One of the early year’s best releases, and a must-listen for fans of song-oriented melodic industrial. Recommended.