BAK XII – Aut Caesar, Aut Nihil (2016)

I’ve actually been looking forward to reviewing this one for a while now. But not because it gives me another chance to listen to the record, but because it’s a rather strong electronic/industrial disc and it needs to be talked about. You can already point out the influences in this Swiss act, like KMFDM, Kraftwerk and numerous others. You can already tell that the disc is already setup in verse/chorus format, but it’s catchy and done right – which is what I really care about on this kind of disc. Let’s talk about it in electronic terms first. BAK XIII utilizes everything from dance club beats to chiptunes, and it all works as they’re able to structure it properly. Have you ever tried to make electronic music before? It’s not exactly easy to perfect regardless of how simple some artists can make it sound. Listening to “Death Is The New Hype” as an example shows exactly how much goes into this kind of a record, guitar riffs included. While BAK XIII definitely feature guitar sections in their pieces, the music they play here is far from metal or even electronic rock. As I said, I hear an awful lot of influence here from KMFDM and definitely Kaptain K himself. But even in all that, I can hear some lighter nodes from acts like The Pet Shop Boys, who the band seem to have taken a lot of inspiration from as I’m noting with this listen. Recently, The British legends have experimented with their own dance-club friendly musings which you’ll hear on their latest album Elysium, and a similar approach can be heard here. Yet as I said, chiptunes are also mixed in with that, making for an approach that I’d expect from a band that has been around for over a decade.

Though this is my first time being exposed to BAK XIII, they’re certainly not a new act by any means. To electronic fans, these guys are considered veterans. Yet it’s very easy to see why, as this album seems to contain just the sort of formula that makes for a commercially acceptable, yet extremely powerful electronic performance. The vocals can be harsh at times, even utilizing a bit of spoken word, but they can also bring a sort of calm clarity that makes for memorable choruses. Aut Casear Aut Nihil is the kind of record that won’t just have you humming choruses, as it’ll also have you in deep thought as you’re walking down the sidewalk on your way to the daily commute. Many important topics are discussed here, like religion (The Awakening) fear mongering, (Fear Is Big Business) musical integrity (Fucking Bloody Song Of Shit) escapism (Living In Video Games) and more. BAK XIII really made the sort of record that not only comes off easily accessible, but also seems to more or less be a dissertation of what is going on in today’s society. If there’s one song that really gelled with me, it’s “We Know Nothing” which I feel is a lesson in humbleness that a great deal of people on the internet need to have shoved down their throats. There’s also an unexpected oddity called “Wake Up” which explores several world music implementations. Such a piece like this might come off a bit oblong at first, but what’s wrong with a song that carries a little bit of a different vibe every once in a while?

In any case, I’d highly recommend this bright and highly intelligent new release from BAK XIII who’ve proven that they’re still just as strong as they were when they began. Aut Caesar Aut Nihil is the definition of capable electronic music in this modern age, and shows that the approach can still evolve and devour newer ideas like video game chiptunes and even (extremely light) dubstep in order to make for a disc that sounds like it belongs in 2016. Make sure you pick it up, because you’ll enjoy it. I did.

(14 Tracks, 60:00)

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