“I wish I could be allowed to tell you what occurred round table 15 just at this moment. It would amuse you very much, and would give you a capital idea of the habits of Venus’s retinue. Indeed, for deplorable reasons, by far the greater part of what was said and done at this supper must remain unrecorded and even unsuggested.”
But Humanbeast do not feel the need to draw a veil of modesty — or rather, a blindfold — across the spiderweb scene they spin from finest latex. It’s not that they’re the only group combining clear-cut pop sensibilities and, more importantly, methodologies with doomy noise, but they’re doing it in a way that feels novel — and even if novelty itself is not unquestionably valuable, the fascination the music holds certainly is.
And how is this felt? Where the group’s earlier releases located themselves squarely in dark ambient, drone, and noise traditions, that recoupling to a pop sensibility mitigates the listener’s explicit masochism, but increases that which is implicit, in the most praiseworthy sense.
“”Do you believe,” I said quickly, for an idea which seemed good, in spite of its conventionality and triteness, flashed into my head, “do you believe that your theories could be carried into execution at the present time, that Venus would be permitted to stray with impunity among our railroads and telegraphs in all her undraped beauty and serenity?”
“Undraped, of course not, but in furs,” she replied smiling, “would you care to see mine?”“
It is precisely this combination of repetitive, thrumming technology and sensual, erotic cruelty — the Grecian wrestling match of modernity and romanticism — that informs Venus Ejaculates Into The Banquet. Sinister atmospherics, particularly in the realm of synthesizer music, often imply aimless noodling, but the direction given by the tension between smooth delivery and the guttural howl of the voice as instrument, as machine — along with insistent, inexorable beats — restrains this possibility like a good dom (a hard thing to find). Songs begin with sophisticated yet bloodseeking synth earworms that give a sense of predictability while proving itself unreliable as they descend into industrial noise or experimental crunch, reemerging nonetheless catchy for their drenching-in-caustic lye.
Alongside this stripped-back Gothicism, there’s an unexpected sense of lushness, of decadence in the 19th-century sense, making itself felt in quasi-House chord stabs and the satiny texture of the vocals. For the most part, the miasma of looming, nameless, and melancholic dread carries the night, although occasionally the lyrics misstep toward the bathetic (“Someone being spanked within earshot”), as does the album artwork, BDSM signifiers that may have been transgressive for The Velvet Underground or Throbbing Gristle, but are so no more.
But these are minor cavils, mere excuses for punishment. Simone de Beauvoir famously asked, must we burn Sade? Eliding Angela Carter’s response from the literary to the musical realm, Humanbeast embody the Sadeian woman, Juliette as Euterpe.