Jake Muir's latest set of soft-focus, sensual electro-concrète, dissolves X-rated gay sleaze flick soundtracks into a shimmering suite of subdued orchestral flourishes and surreal cosmic psychedelia.
Back in 2020, Muir put together a 90-minute mix for Honey Soundsystem, blending tracks from Kelman Duran, DJ Olive, Daniel Lanois and Terre Thaemlitz with obliquely camp dialog samples from vintage gay porn. The idea was to represent queer sexuality in a looser, more experimental manner, grazing the super-sensory pleasure of the bathhouse experience and the illicit joy of cruising without getting too self-serious while doing it. The mix was so popular that Muir followed it up with a weightless sequel two years later, and began developing the concept into a proper album, using more samples of music and dialogue, eventually performing the piece at the esteemed GRM as part of their FOCUS #4 concerts alongside work by Eliane Radigue, Folke Rabe and Chris Watson.
Bathhouse Blues is split into two side-long pieces that wash and ripple with nervous tension and discreet salaciousness. Opening with a familiar theatre sting, there are echoes here of kosmische and experimental electronics on 'Cruisin’ 87', fashioned into puddles of syrupy, back-room ambience. Occasionally we hear lascivious words thru the fog, men mumbling to each other before sex. "That's beautiful," a voice mutters over a dusky cricket chirp on 'Pipe Dream'. "It is," another replies.
Muir's sonic treatment is suitably explicit, like a 1950s Hollywood jump-cut to a train going into a tunnel; he takes the whole-body, mutual release of queer sex and interprets it with heady gestures, peppering jazzy rhythmic frostings into basins of skewered drone and gurgling synths. His sound is coloured by the pleasure of physical touch, a mussy flux of high frequency scrapes and caresses juxtaposed with woozy, dubbed-out fondles and thrusts. Who said the GRM was buttoned up?