Image via Patricia Castañeda

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Michael McKinney understands the cultural importance of Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci.”

Jake Muir has been trekking deep into the uncanny valley for years now, but with each trip, he goes a bit deeper. The Berlin-based sound artist and field recordist makes electronic music that is, at turns, blissed-out, queasy, and disorienting; frequently, it is several of these at once. In his work, he builds worlds out of found sounds and reassembled timelines, tangling histories of electroacoustic and ambient music in the process. His first record, 2016’s Muara, recalls the Biosphere’s glacial electronics, and Lady’s Mantle, released two years later, saw Muir turning surf-rock samples inside out, going a few inches below the water’s surface and finding a preternatural calm.

In the past few years, though, Muir has found an even more particular well. In 2020, he released Bathhouse Blues, a DJ mix for queer dance-music mainstay Honey Soundsystem. Here, he created a zero-gravity mix of ambience, illbient, and queer love, weaving samples from vintage gay pornography in between sepia-tinged synthesizer washes. He would go on to mine the same vein three more times: Bathhouse Blues Vol. 2 and Bathhouse Blues Vol. 3 turn the whole thing deeply surreal and a bit more direct, cranking on the samples, leaning into deep-space synthetics, and rendering the intimacy all the more affecting.

Finally, there’s Bathhouse Blues. Released between the second and third mixes, the DJ & producer’s latest LP explores the same slow-motion intimacy as the mixes, crafting something otherworldly along the way. Muir works carefully and tenderly on the LP, looking towards new-school ambience, pornography from fifty years ago and sound art that is older still, soaking each in sweat until their silhouettes are indistinguishable from each other. Like Muir’s finest work, the LP is disorienting for how it scrambles notions of place and time; here, he splits the difference between the here-and-now and the fourth world.

If you flip over the Bathhouse Blues vinyl, you’ll find a faded illustration. The piece is an advertisement for a bathhouse in Sydney, but it might as well present a portal to another plane. A man, wearing nothing beyond a pair of trunks, is walking towards a door; above him, an archway: “Far hence Remain / O, Ye Profane! / Be Ye Washed / Ye shall be clean.” This artwork presents intimacy as a transformative and otherworldly experience; it catapults queer spaces deep into the astral plane. On Bathhouse Blues, Muir pulls off a similar trick, presenting visions of intimacy overheard, soundtracking encounters half-remembered, and blanketing the titular space in a deep fog.

Late last year, we had a chance to speak with Muir over Zoom, digging into his artistic process, queer representation in experimental music, rebuilding the wheel, and plenty more.

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

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