Serotonin, Future Anterior (BiFocal Media)

Murfreesboro’s Serotonin have always been difficult. Their songs lurch through tempo and meter changes while shrieks and yells decorate washed-out, dissonant chords. Their new mini-album, Future Anterior, is no less-challenging than their previous 11 releases.

Their style once showed all the hallmarks of the “emocore” tag. It was born out of the desperate howls of Fugazi and other underground punk bands but their new songs show them pushing themselves in more directions. Notably, Serotonin have parted ways with the punk ethos of short songs. One track on the new record tops off at 8:59, another at 7:04. Of the remaining four tracks, only one is less than three minutes long.

As one might guess, it’s difficult to push the envelope length-wise and strength-wise, so Serotonin employ an attack of shifting gears. Drifting, the album’s 9 minute epic, opens with brief, sharply-punctuated riffs before soaring into a batch of oddly-timed lines and dipping into an acoustic guitar-led verse. Even when it repeats an anguished verse or battered riff, it sounds new. Oddly, the song uses repetition to explore new musical terrain. Much of the success of this approach is due to drummer Jim Valosik who mixes up his beats so much that repeated riffs take on new dimensions over his creative drumming.

It is on Impulse Response and the record’s hidden track, that the band stretches their style most. Each reaches into quieter and cleaner sounds than their other material – at times reminding the listener of Tortoise or The Sea and Cake. The hidden track’s syncopated guitar lines sound almost like lounge music, especially after the up-and-down dynamics of the rest of the record.

Unlike many of their peer bands, Serotonin have always fully embraced the idea that their music should smash convention and push their own limits of creativity. With a 35-minute run-time, Future Anterior crams more than an album’s worth of ideas into six tracks.

[This piece originally appeared in the Rage.]