Kassa Overall, “The Score Was Made” (Warp)

Multifaceted Seattle-bred drummer/producer Kassa Overall has only come into prominence as a solo artist over the last few years, but he's been involved with some heavy hitters since 2007. After moving to New York City in 2006, Overall began working with jazz pianist Geri Allen, wife of his mentor, the trumpeter Wallace Roney. A stint with Das Racist ensued and then session work with Yoko Ono, Gary Bartz, Arto Lindsay, Ravi Coltrane, Cass McCombs, and many others.

Starting with 2019's Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz and 2020's I Think I'm Good (released by Gilles Peterson's prestigious Brownswood label), Overall's tracks have exhibited the mercurial, concise brilliance and nonchalant rhythmic verve of Flying Lotus and Prefuse 73's best releases. Featuring elements of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, and electro, his music flits in a hazy netherzone, making it difficult to distinguish individual songs. Instead, his work takes on value cumulatively, leaving a general impression of a restlessly creative mind jumping from inspired idea to cunning move many times per minute. Accompanied by a varied array of collaborators, he doesn't seem interested in the singular banger so much as he wants to create an atmosphere of polymorphous cool.

For his third and best album, Animals (on the illustrious British label Warp), Overall calls on a stellar cast for vocal and instrumental reinforcements. (A monotone singing style is perhaps Overall's only weakness.) “Ready to Ball” is upper-echelon, jazz-hop beat science, as melodically beautiful as it is rhythmically disorienting. Warp Records rapper Danny Brown's cantankerous yawp animates “Clock Ticking,” Overall's funkiest track to date, while Ratking MC Wiki's weirdly introspective flow adds crucial contrast.

Avant-garde jazz informs the wild “Still Ain't Find Me,” a serious highlight that features Pharoah Sanders's offspring Tomoki—and it's a tease at 1:46. “The Lava Is Calm” boasts Theo Coker crooning mellowly over a strange samba/prog-rock fusion. The jazz-pop-rap fantasia of “Going Up” gets bolstered by verses from Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler and Lil B. Less successful is the florid orch-pop of “So Happy,” with contributions from Laura Mvula and Francis and the Lights.

The jagged, noir jazz-funk of “The Score Was Made” takes honors for most interesting cut on Animals, in no small part to revered keyboardist Vijay Iyer's chilling, suspenseful piano motifs. Overall's beats simultaneously skitter and stolidly pound amid metallic percussion, sounding like a crafty mutation of the oft-sampled break from Bob James's “Take Me to the Mardi Gras.” To get an idea of the sublimity here, imagine the greatest track that Wu-Tang Clan never released.

Kassa Overall performs August 27 at THING Festival in Port Townsend, Washington.

Black Nite Crash, “I'm Not in Love” (Neon Sigh)

For nearly 20 years, Black Nite Crash have been one of the West Coast's finest shoegaze-rock groups. Which is not surprising for a band named after a song on shoegaze deities Ride's 1996 album, Tarantula. (By the way, BNC's “Atmosphere” from 2012's Drawn Out Days is their “Dreams Burn Down.”) For much of their career, BNC have made Lo-Fi Performance Gallery their second home. So, it's fitting that they're playing the final edition of the Britpop monthly Sorted at that beloved, 20-year-old venue, which is closing in July. At that gig, you'll surely hear material from their great new EP, Elaborate Destinations.

Led by guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Jim Biggs, BNC have created dynamic, tuneful rock that balances the beauty/noise ratio with poise with remarkable consistency over the decades. The four songs on Elaborate Destinations continue the quintet's strong run. Biggs, Sharim Johnson, and Claire Tucker's guitars form dense webs of well-articulated fuzz and jangle, Jasun Hadaway's bass snakes through the low end with subliminal elasticity, and Tony Zuniga's drums are rock solid.

“I'm Not in Love” (which isn't a cover of 10cc's similarly titled 1975 hit) whirrs into life with a thick guitar squall before elevating to a cloud-busting melody that soars in a manner not unlike that of primetime Ride. The song spirals into the sublime at around 3:40 with Biggs and Tucker trading “I'm not in love”s like conflicted lovers battling for stereo-field supremacy. It's hard not to be in love with it.

Black Nite Crash perform with the Purrs, Wall Drug, and DJs Paco, Not So Good, and Mister Sister June 9 as part of the last edition of the Sorted! monthly at Lo-Fi Performance Gallery