Ontario stoner trio SIERRA have captured the attention of KYLESA principals Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants, who recently started their own label, Retro Futurist Records. As their inaugural signing, SIERRA is sure to win over the stoner sect as quickly as they have Cope and Pleasants. Their debut album, "Pslip", is a slow cooker at first, but in due time, SIERRA issues a red-hot salutation overtly staked from stoner frontiers with a nod to Nineties grunge yesteryear. Best of all, SIERRA doesn't really sound like anyone in particular, which is good when you're still reconnoitering your identity as these guys are.
"Pslip" knocks on the door with a very good huffing intro, "Pslip In", setting a gasping expectation that immediately segues into the slower bob of "Little Smoke". The main riff patterns are cool enough while Ky Anto's beats are measured carefully, perhaps a little too much. The tightness of SIERRA is welcome on "Little Smoke", but it could benefit from more jive instead of exact dicing. To its credit, the choruses carry a nice lilt from Jason Taylor's poised voice and guitars. His airy solo calmly transmits the tendrils of the song's toked-up muse, and here would've been a nice way to exit the song. Instead, it goes on for another minute with an unnecessary jam to the finish.
"Control Folly" gives the impression SIERRA are going to continue sitting on their baked laurels, but they begin to pick up the pace with the jiving tones its predecessor needed. Robbie Carvalho rolls a funky bass thread through the first stanza before the song takes a different direction, poking about in transition and hitting a heavy slam for a moment before reprising the original melody. Carvalho again figures into "100", spilling most of the song's notes through its laborious verse scuttles, albeit, the song switches to a variance of tempo-spiked grunge measures on the choruses. It's a strange collision of methods, but it works, especially when Jason Taylor's scratchy-psychedelic solo gives SIERRA their defining character at this early stage in their careers. From here, "Pslip" turns its dime (or dimebag, if you like) in terrific fashion.
SIERRA starts making the moment count with the killer instrumental "Psquigalogz". This track shakes free any inhibitors of the earlier songs as the band cuts loose. The riffs here rank amongst the best on the album and Jason Taylor goes full frontal with his frets, methodically working himself into squealing acid solos that bounce off Robbie Carvalho and Ky Anto's punctuated rhythm knocks. Then Carvalho gets "Into Nothing" rolling with a tasty lick and he's picked up immediately by a thrusting beat upon which SIERRA proves Philip Cope's faith, so much Cope himself joins in the festivities. One of the album's coolest rides, "Into Nothing", sharply alternates between banging ferocity and funky mid-tempo pokes. This time, the trio's jam during the solo section is a beast.
The sweet, fainting intro to "Smoke Filled Room" is the perfect precursor to the stamping chaos vaulting out of it like the demonic witch upon the eldest Warren girl in "The Conjuring". As the song pounds away for numerous bars on the crests of monster riffs and Jason Taylor's counterpoint controlled singing, SIERRA throws in a progressive interlude. This brilliantly reclaims "Smoke Filled Room"'s fragile opening before the drums erupt with orgasmic head rolls leading into a final explosion, all pulled back into a quietus a final time on the outro.
The compelling riff machine of "Pseptember" may not get beyond the speed of a toddler on a trike, but SIERRA hardly stumbles here. They use the trolling tempo to their advantage, heaping many minutes of dense, swampy chord projections that never get too tired. The repetition of "Pseptember" resounds because of a tuneful interceding bridge you never see coming.
SIERRA has some serious talent that's still gestating. "Pslip" wisely builds its foundations and what may come off initially as hesitance soon emerges from a sonic cocoon teeming with confidence. This one's all but guaranteed to blow up the stoner underground.