Human Potential, Heartbreak Record

Michael Wojtas

Human Potential, Heartbreak Record [What Delicate Recordings]

Heartbreak Record may be sadly doomed to a very particular kind of obscurity. It’s the solo debut from Andrew Becker, previously of Screens and Medications, and recording under the Human Potential moniker here. Heartbreak Record isn’t particularly inaccessible, but there’s something elusive about it. As the title suggests, the mood is typically crestfallen, but weightlessly so. It has no easy reference points, and so it will resist the studied listeners’ urge to catalogue and compartmentalize. For that reason, the album might end up a true orphan, even amongst the kinds of small label fans and esoteric collectors who usually adopt such fare.

Becker has no apparent interest in the politics of fidelity and nostalgia or evoking any specific scene or era. You could say his work exists outside of time, but that reeks of a pretension and grandiosity that would be utterly out of place in reference to music this delicately constructed. Heartbreak Record is psychedelically immersive and dissociative, yet untouched by familiar psych-rock and pop tropes. The general sound—angelic falsetto lost and whirling in spacey guitar molasses and thrashing percussion—shares some surface similarities with Panda Bear, Spectrum and (especially) Lotus Plaza and Lockett Pundt’s enigmatic, maze-like Deerhunter contributions. But the relations are distant, like Becker is remembering a few indie touchstones through the filter of a past life.

Opener “Rounded Hours,” a patient, glistening scale exploration that casts tension-release dynamics as a holy pursuit, sets the blueprint for Heartbreak Record. The album’s primary concerns are space and texture, and as a guitarist, Becker plays like he’s trying to sketch geometric patterns with his irregular chords. He maintains that he was learning the instrument while making the record. While he may be stretching the truth here, there’s a wide-eyed inventiveness at work that distinguishes these songs. The mousey-quiet to thunderstorm-loud shifts heard throughout the album occasionally bring Gauntlet Hair’s naivety to mind, though “Bridges, Platforms and Copper Spires” or “To Effectively Mirror Saturn” alone possess more energy and restraint than that missed opportunity of a band ever mustered. Meanwhile, the Jesus-envisioning lyrics and monastically reverbed vocals of “The Weight of Weathering” are spiritual, certainly, but Becker doesn’t fall into the J. Spacemen-type holding patterns that ensnare most who go this route.

Whatever the actual backstory behind the album’s warm insularity (claims include homemade instruments, and spirit quests), Heartbreak Record accomplishes something that’s becoming exceedingly rare. It’s a modern guitar record that, though small in scope and execution, manages to feel genuinely singular.

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