It’s hard to say with certainty what the long-running Swedish trio Frak are up to with their latest white label for Kontra-Musik. What we know for sure is that after two decades of under-the-radar activity, the wider world is taking note of their home-brewed techno and electro sounds. Prisma is their latest EP, and the first time since surfacing that the murkiness of their intentions works against the music. Their first stateside release, the Muzika Electronic LP on Digitalis, was an ideal introduction to their chunky, hardware-heavy sound and restless style-jumping. They may position themselves as outsiders, but the ease with which they straddled cold wave, warped electro, and modular fiddling through expert sequencing showed the depth of their craft. Individual cuts had a live-jam spontaneity, but presented as a whole, it consistently reveals new facets. Prisma follows Triffid Gossip, and like its predecessor, its four tracks focus the group’s energy in a more stable direction, but it lacks the distilled power of the first EP, particularly the storming “666.”
“Dried Grapes,” like “666,” is a lead-footed track, its sequencers locked into a heavy thud as sickly arpeggios tussle in the higher frequencies. But Frak seem a bit lost when it comes to moving things forward, randomly dropping in a strobing alien siren and jogging the cutoff back and forth, with the result feeling less dynamic and involving than what they achieved on their previous outing. Interlude “Lust for Love” is a more floor-ready take on the divergent materials that made up the LP’s “Tristesse Dance,” complete with wan guitar lines and flashes of 8-bit synths. “Urgent” anchors the second side, its fuzzy bass falling just short of its title before a delirious, gawky synth figure ties things up. And “Modest Trash” concludes the EP with its most experimental few minutes, spacey bleeps cutting through a stew of choppy mids and tape hiss. Prisma feels like an solid but less engaging middle ground between the shape-shifting LP and the congealed techno of Triffid Gossip. It’s not hard to imagine these tracks being put to good use in a live set like their Inkonst performance, but their latest lacks the unexpected.