20.4.15

Pekji Perfumes: The Turkish Renaissance.

I'm glad to welcome Pekji to the world of fragrance. An exciting indie line from Turkey made by that multi-talented individual called Omer Ipekci. Musician, graphic designer, photographer, food-lover, calligraphy's freak, couch philosopher, hardcore Louis CK's fan, perfumer and, most of all, a good friend. Someone might be led to think I'm biased towards this brand because of my real-life friendship with the guy behind the line but, as a matter of fact, I hadn't been excited by a *properly-indie* line since I discovered Slumberhouse back in 2011.

Pekji is all about tradition and modernity paired together, about honesty and no-nonsense, no compromise, about substance and style as opposed to just style, about craftsmanship but, most importantly, Pekji is about good fragrances and good people, not shallow luxury.




Holy Shit

Holy Shit!



Yes, this is exactly the first thing that comes to mind as soon as this fragrance touches your skin. Just like Cuir 6 and Odoon (both from the same line), Holy Shit takes a theme and push it to the limits. I could try to dissect this fragrance into notes but it would honestly be reductive as the main charm of this composition relies on its incredibly evocative power. Ancient woods, a stable where you played hide-n-seek as a kid, a subway station in a metropolis, a catacomb, moldy walls, smoke, incense, animalic notes, oxidized metal, art, sacred art, modern art, traditional art. People, sidewalks, dried herbs, wrinkles on your mother's face, your father's hands, craftsmanship, joy, pain, love and hate.



There's nothing even barely similar to Holy Shit and, beside being two completely different fragrances, its evocative and striking power is only comparable to Norma Kamali's infamous Incense. If you like unique and *hardcore* stuff, this is something not not miss. For any reason. An iconic fragrance from a true pioneer.



Bravo!

Rating: 8.5-9/10

Cuir6

Cuir6 opens with a rough, assertive and unapologetic blast of smoky leather that feels like an assault to your senses and leaves no room for compromise.  A foghorn of smoke with a claustrophobic and yet mesmerizing character. Something I could only relate to early Swans' music. It's modern and primitive at the same time, rough but not simplistic as it actually relies on a classic bone-structure. It takes a while to Cuir 6 to properly settle down as the opening is quite brutal but once the middle phase and the base break in, it's time for gratification. An old-school patch / labdanum driven masculine with a multifaceted leather component provided by birch-tar, ionones, castoreum and boatloads more of leathery paraphernalia.

Forget about trendy aromachemicals, forget about overly polished leathers, forget about *leathery* stuff. Cuir 6 is the primordial magma of leather. Cuir 6 is the hyper-leather.

A few keywords to have a better idea on which ballpark this stuff plays in. Think about Le Labo's Patchouli 24 minus the barbecue accord and with the vanilla brutally toned down. Tauer's Lonestar Memories minus the amber. Lisa Kirk's Revolution without the urban feel or an *ungroomed* version of Mad Et Len Black Aghan. Ok, think about all of the above and you're still far from the real treat you will experience with this fragrance.

Striking, straight to the point and absolutely unique. Leather freaks you've been warned: this is holy grail stuff.

Rating: 8.5/10

Eaumer

If there's something I learned from Pekji's fragrances is that there aren't good notes and bad ones but only either a good use of them or a bad one.

Eaumer opens with something I perceive as citrusy-green. I guess a mixture of green notes, petit-grain / neroli and other fizzy things. It immediately makes you think of an Eau De Cologne but, at the same time, it doesn't feel *retrò* or *old-fashioned*. Intstead, because of its gasoline-like undertones, it's reassuringly modern and even edgy if you want. There's also a jasmine component thrown in the mix that together with a chlorine-like kind of ozonic accord, enhances the overall airy character of this fragrance. It sounds challenging but, honestly, it's anything but. Compared to either Holy Shit or Cuir 6, this is definitely on the *easier* side of the spectrum. More versatile, easier to like and more *tradionally* perfumey especially during the amber / vetiver-driven drydown. It's basically a fresh fragrance with a twist but whereas most other similarly themed fragrances fall either on aquatic or flat white musky synth kind of stuff, Eaumer is vibrating, alive and extremely satisfying thourhout.

Very Good!

Rating: 7-5-8/10



Odoon

Odoon is the hyperwood. I can't think of a better start for describing Odoon than the incipit of the fragrance's own ad copy. Odoon is indeed the hyperwood. The quintessential woody fragrance. It's smoky, creamy, dry, sweetish, dusty, angular, smooth, deep, fresh, warm, rounded, edgy, earthy, clean, dirty…it's wood in all its facets and it has umami too. As simple as that. Think about either Wonderwood or Wonderoud with even more woods and with a thicker and smokier bone-structure. There's a hint of something floral somewhere but it's just a refinement while a resinous vetiver base enhances the general *woodyness* to the maximum. 

A no-brainer for woods lovers.

Rating: 8-8.5/10



Ruh

Ruh is most probably the crowdpleaser of the whole line. A very solid take on the oriental-rose theme. It opens with a decadent but not overly opulent jammy rose accord immediately joined by the most realistic and vivid green cardamom note I've experienced in a while. There's a transparent quality to this opening that preserves the fragrance from taking the *heavy* route. Saffron is perfectly merged to rose providing a dark yellow / orange hue while a roasted coffee accord together with oud play baritonal notes. The fragrance revolves around a benzoin / amber bone structure with woody notes thickening the base.

Immediately likable, smooth and effortless in its beauty. A piece of work that reeks of perfection.

Rating: 8.5/10

For more infos about Pekji Perfumes, click here.

10.4.15

Angela Ciampagna: Post-Goth In Full Colors.

With an aesthetic that's never too rough but it ain't overly polished either. italian *artisanal* line Angela Ciampagna, is currently standing out amongst the plethora of unnecessary brands for having a solid concept, simple and striking packagings, extremely good fragrances and, most of all, for being nice people…  A rural vibe that's quintessentially Italian. An intelligent mixture of sacred and profane, of paganism and religion. The best part though, is how these people are bringing the *artisanal* word back to its original meaning: *actual quality* and *craftsmanship* as opposed to *rough unfinished fragrances* or *massified products*.

Now, forget the usual *apothecary* vibe of several indie lines, forget *wierd* fragrances being weird just for the sake of standing out or for the lack of skills by the perfumer and get ready to discover a plain solid, beautiful range of fragrances that's claiming its place amongst the best discoveries of 2015.

From their official presentation:

"We are proud people, artisans by nature and nobles by heritage. We are of christian upbringing and of pagan ancestry. We worship the fire of the sacred heart and that of the hearths and bonfires; we live among prayers, rural rituals, monastic mysticism and familiar superstitions."



Rosarium

Rosarium is probably my favorite release in this utterly compelling range. A smooth and highly comforting take on liturgical incense. There's something very familiar about this fragrance and yet, somehow, while bringing to mind of other similarly themed fragrances, there's still something incredibly unique about it.

The incense is clean, waxy, white and with a crystal quality. It feels fragile in its beauty but never ephemeral. There's a sense of detachment that pervades Rosarium throughout its evolution but it's juxtaposed to something warm and comforting. In this context, it reminded me of L'Orpheline by Serge Lutens. Mind me though, the two are pretty different in smell but they share the same fragrance profile. Several shades of gray (I promise less than fifty) with a lilac dye thrown in the palette. They're both aloof and affable at the same time but while the Lutens feels somewhat like a Comme Des Garcons wannabe, the Ciampagna takes the rural / rustic route. There's the violet-incense combo of Maria Candida Gentile's Exultat, something to enhance the general grayness probably provided by the iris-cedarwood duo (Carthusia 1681) while the waxy incense give a remarkable sense of cleanliness.

The drydown is all about a super warm and enveloping vanillic-woody-incense base with vetiver keeping the general powderyness / sweetness perfectly in check. Cedarwood is never overdone so that the fragrance can keep a well rounded structure from top to bottom. As most others *Ciampagnas*, Rosarium is incredibly easy to like while being slightly twisted to preserve its subtle but very defined identity. Fantastic presence and extraordinary longevity.

Well refined, easy to wear and completely addictive. A winner.

Rating: 8-8.5/10

Hatria 

A good way to realize a fragrance is exceptionally good is when it involves a good amount of notes you're generally not very keen to, and it's still able to completely catch your interest. This is Hatria for me. I'm definitely not a rose-oud combo fan but this composition is so serious that's basically impossible to overlook.

So, it's a saffrony-rose on top. Very arabic in feel, thick, dark and kind of unpolished and yet completely devoided of the challenging aspect that certain similarly themed fragrances can often show. It's a butch, rich opening but it's immediately joined by a hint of burnt-caramel that tames it a bit while providing some roundness and, paradoxically, even more body. A woody base remarks its presence right away with a leathery-oudy bone-structure and vetiver facets (probably the nagarmotha). It's far removed from the usual dry-woody stuff we're used to when it comes to westerner iterations of oud. The fragrance feels deep and dark yet somewhat smooth, airy and weightless while maintaining a certain thickness throughout. It's bold but not heavy-handed, with an insane lasting-power while being completely able to not result exhausting.

So classy and masterfully executed to have absolutely nothing to envy to the biggest *hits* in its genre. Seriously, very solid stuff.

Rating: 7.5/10

Aer

What really compels me about most of the fragrances in the Ciampagna's range, is the level of competence these people transmit. Aer makes no exception.

A summery take on vetiver loaded with  hyper-realistic and never overly synth citruses (a great grapefruit note here), greens and subtle smoky notes. Think about an hypothetical mash up between Roucel's Kenzoair (the anisic, slightly sweet aspect of the vetiver), the smoky-minty facets of Harmatan Noir by Parfumerie Generale and the transparency of some of the most successful latest Hermes. Yes, Aer is all of the above but it also has that subtle twist that makes all the compositions by Angela Ciampagna, something that stand on their own. That certain twist you would expect from, say, Etat Libre D'Orange or even from one of the *easiest* Comme Des Garcons.

A personal favortie.

Rating: 8/10

Liquo


Here's another (big) hit. Definitely on the darker side of the spectrum if compared to other deliveries from the same house, Liquo is a vibrating mix of dark salty licorice, anise and hay. Something that immediately made me think about artisanal italian licorice-based liquors / amari. The hay note is remarkable from the very early stages but it gets more dominant as the fragrance evolves towards the drydown during which it's joined by a moderately sweet and dry woody-tonka base with incensey undertones. Moody and kind of blue too but comfortingly so.

Again, the rustic and the modern paired together, a rural villa renovated with modern finishings, it's the goth represented in full colors as opposed to just black, it's a fragrance aimed at smelling good and modern by skipping relying on *weird* notes and / or aromachemicals. As with most others Ciampagnas, fantastic presence and great longevity. 

Kudos.

Rating: 7,5-8/10

Nox

Another aspect that's immediately noticeable while exploring this line, it's its diversity. Ciampagna's offerings cover several themes in perfumery and all of them with a very personal quote and style. Nox is what I would probably describe as a woody aromatic that relies on an original mix of notes.

There's the hinoki's kind of cypress / dark green quality as the main player and it's paired to an ozonic mix of genderless white florals, other astringent / pungent green notes and a remarkable salty vibe (which is present in several other fragrances from this house). Other smooth woods and clean musky notes serve as a base. The overall result is pretty original and charming if not a tad *bizarre*. A light / transparent woody thing with a remarkably modern twist. Could easily be an hypothetical love child between an Hermessence and a Comme Des Garcons but with that certain italian / mediterranean je ne sais quoi which is typical of this firm.

Nice but not amongst my favorites.

Rating: 6,5-7/10

Ducalis

Ducalis is the typical iteration of oud westerner style that relies on sharp dry woods and spices. Think about a slightly less aggressive Montale and you're there. Cedarwood, synth-mysky-leather, norlimbanol (or any other similar woodyamber) *adorned* by subtle florals such as a rosy pattern and maybe some geranium and with an overall aquatic vibe. If you like Montale's style or certain Nasomattos, you might dig this one but for me, Ducalis is way too late to the party.

Potent, aggressive and extremely long lasting.

Probably my least favorite in this otherwise fantastic range.

Rating: 4,5-5/10

Kanat

Kanat is quite a nostalgic fragrance in my personal experience. I'm probably completely off here but upon application, I can't help it from being immediately teleported to when I was a kid in school and, more precisely, the smell of Coccoina. A kid-safe and extremely popular italian glue which had a fantastic and quite unmistakeable almondy smell. Now, given the notes disclosed, the only thing that could make me remotely think of almonds is probably acacia but it might still be kind of a stretch. Anyway, Coccoina and those days spent cutting images from magazines for doing collages. The warmth of mid-may sun, long days of light and a sense trepidation for the incoming vacations.

Kanat is all of that for me. It's an evocation of my childhood.

Beside Coccoina, I smell smooth florals, a hint of medicinal saffron and a soft white musky / vanillic base. Not a fragrance I'm crazy for but if you're drawn to light florals with a twist, give this a chance. 

As with most other fragrances in this line, Kanat never feels cheap or even rushed and it's pretty original too without going necessarily for the weird route.

Rating: 6.5-7/10

For more informations about Angela Ciampagna, please click here.




5.4.15

UNUM: Black Whole Of Love.




When it comes to fragrance, there's nothing more exciting than a new line with a solid concept showing up in this market that seems to be more and more crowded by useless brands and their greed, faux promises of luxury and exclusivity. We often tend to focus on who's considered to be the only star of the fragrance-sphere, the perfumer but, today more than ever, it's really all about the synergy between the curator / artistic director and the *nose*. All you need to hire the *parfumeur du-jour* is a good amount of money but, unfortunately, a skilled perfumer alone is way too often not enough to make a good fragrance…let alone an entire line.  We need solid concepts, people with a relevant cultural background and concrete ideas.

Unum has them all. Born from the mind of tout-court artist Filippo Sorcinelli (painter, photographer, musician, church organist and ecclesiastic tailor)  and his team  at L.A.V.S. (Laus),  Unum is definitely one of the most interesting new-comer brands for 2015. A dark / gothic aesthetic with an eye to the future and one to history. An intelligent mixture of avant-garde and tradition that's paradoxically able to be both opulent and sober at the same time. Unum started their range with a trio of fragrances (all in Extrait De Parfum strength) in collaboration with Cererie Terenzi and the result is so solid, that they will stand out no matter what your favorite genre is. 



LAVS

Formerly a room spray used to scent the ecclesiastic garments that Sorcinelli's atelier L.A.V.S tailored for both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis amongst several others. Now re-worked into an *extrait de parfum*, LAVS is hands down the definitive catholic liturgical incense. Forget Avignon, Cardinal, La Liturgie Des Heures and all the other similarly themed fragrances. Forget also the more *oriental* takes on the main theme such as Bois D'Encens, Sahara Noir and the plethora of others, LAVS is completely on another level. It's the opulence of a mass in the Basilica Papale, it's the whole ritual, the majesty of gold the smell of sacristy, the canonicals. It's white smoke and resins galore, it's deep and dark but never brooding or funereal…instead it's introspective, meditative and comforting. 

It's not a secret I'm a frankincense freak but, honestly, LAVS is a concrete step forward in its genre and a very substantial one for countless reasons. For starters, it's tremendously striking for its incredible evocative power. Its uniqueness, its ability to get so close to the main theme while skipping being too simplistically literal and, last but not least, the quality of the ingredients involved. Boatloads of resins that range from elemi to frankincense via labdanum, myrrh and opoponax concocted around what's one of the best woody bases I've experienced since Bois D'Ascese. Cloves enhances a certain medicinal vibe before settling down and give birth to a clean undertone that gets more and more remarkable as the fragrance evolves into an endless, pure-incense driven drydown which also relies on the most solid woody-ambery (as opposed to *woodyamber*) foundation I've smelt in a while. Forget the usual cedarwood, forget the typical mono-dimensionality of most incense-soliflores, forget those exhausting woodyambers. LAVS is incredibly alive, vibrating and vivid as only this biblical resin can get.  Addictive, introspective, dark and deep as well as spacious, airy and yes, even epic. 

Saying this fragrance is compelling would honestly be reductive. My personal standout in this line and something I'll never want to be without.

An instant classic.

Rating: 9.5/10

Opus 1144

Opus 1144 is aimed at celebrating the gothic style. From architecture to sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, frescos, illuminated manuscripts and all its other artistic declinations. It's a bold and complex fragrance that's so hard to describe just like it's so objectively multifaceted.

If you, like me, struggle with  sweet fragrances, the opening of Opus 1144 could result a bit challenging for being so incredibly thick and powerful to the point to make yourself questioning your sanity. Forget about any avant-garde trickery or modernist type of perfumery as Opus 1144 is really all about solid classicism. A dense, kind of syrupy, vanillic floral opening juxtaposed to a typically-french citrus counterpart. If you can't deal with its sweetness, I'd say hang in there because the best has yet to come and keep in mind that extraits de parfum are generally slower to properly settle down…

The fragrance starts then to evolve into an opulent and decadent dusty oriental that has nothing to envy to a bunch of the best Amouage feminines (the most balmy-oriental ones such as Opus VI, Epic Woman and Lyric Woman). The overall sweetness of the opening is remarkably tamed down by a plush musky-leathery bone-structure that, together with smooth creamy / woody notes and resins starts lurking in the back to then slowly drive the fragrabce towards what is in my opinion its real essence: the majestic drydown. There's definitely something classically french about Opus 1411, something familiarly comforting while all this is paired to a dark nature that gives this composition a brooding character. Like falling into an abyss of powdery decadence. An endless echo that gets lower and lower  in tone as time goes by…and it goes on and on and on for hours…darker, more dusty, drier. It's quintessentially gothic and agrees with red / purple velvet and black marble.

If you're drawn to bold and complex fragrances, Opus 1144 is a mandatory stop and, trust me, it won't leave you indifferent.

Rating: 8-8.5/10

Rosa Nigra

Rosa Nigra, despite its name, is defintely the bright side of Unum. It's a transparent fruity woody concoction that's able to feel aloof and affable at the same time and it's pervaded by a sort of detached sophistication that reaches martial levels. Almost snob and yet, somehow, nice and gracious at that. Rose is more of a suggestion than an actual note but said suggestion is present throughout the fragrance's evolution and it's probably achieved via how they rendered the fruity notes. From the crystal clear and perfectly executed peach-driven opening to the warmer and slightly powdery sandalwood drydown. The peach and the florals perfectly melts together and give birth to a classic accord that, in this context, brings to mind of an hypothetical love-child between Lyric Man and…Samsara? A fragrance for a mature youth which is light-hearted but never superficial, happy but with a darker and more meditative side as well. Just like Opus 1114, Rosa Nigra has a classicism inherent to it that immediately brings to mind of traditional french perfumery but there's also a certain minimalism that speaks about the orient. It's a tight composition that leaves nothing to the case. Calculated and calm, remarkably present but never intrusive. It's a reassuring familiar voice, it's like listening to your own breath, it's the outdoors on a chilly and sunny morning while you breathe at full lungs capacity. 

Very good.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

For further infos about Unum, L.A.V.S. and Filippo Sorcunelli, please check the following links




5.1.15

Unsound presents: Ephemera. The smell of Bass, Drone and Noise.

I will open 2015 with one of the most exciting perfume-related experiments in quite some years. In April 2014, curators Malgorzata Plysa and Mat Schulz from Unsound (a festival focused on commissioned works and unconventional music) launched the Ephemera project: a synesthetic experiment in which avant-garde perfumer Geza Schoen translated into scents rough patterns of sound composed and produced by three of the most influential musicians in their respective genres.



From the Ephemera website:

"Ephemera was first conceived as an installation, to emphasize the synesthetic properties of the project, with visitors immersing themselves in scent, sound and visual elements. The aim is to explore a disorienting and rewarding interzone where the human senses blur. The focus on the olfactory opens up new interactions between scent and sound, image and light, the material and the immaterial. 

The installation was first launched at Unsound Festival New York in April 2014 in the compact space of Audio Visual Arts, with Bass, Noise and Drone presented at various times. 
The second phase takes place at Unsound Krakow from 12 - 19 October 2014 at the National Museum of Krakow, Szolayskich House, across five rooms. The Noise, Drone and Bass rooms also contain an improvised structure created by Piotr Jakubowicz. In two separate rooms, Marcel Weber (MFO) and Manuel Sepulveda present visual reinterpretations of these fusions of scent and sound in a form of video works and graphic patterns printed on canvas. 

From 23 - 26 October, Ephemera will travel to the Tromsø Center For Contemporary Art in Norway, to be installed as part of Insomnia Festival"

What came out are three fragrances called *Bass*, *Noise* and *Drones* inspired by the respective sounds.

Here are my takes on these compositions:

Bass:  

"For Steve Goodman, the idea of Bass connects with childhood memories triggered by the sound and the accompanying scent he remembers of a broken, burning vacuum cleaner. Geza Schoen translated this to a scent which opens with woodsmoke and rum notes, developing into leather, mastic, and tea notes, and finishing with castoreum and moss, among other scents".

*Bass* is based on a pattern of sounds by musician Steve Goodman aka Kode9, owner of the UK-based electronic / dubstep / bass-msusic / post-techno label Hyperdub which is responsible for more than 100 releases by seminal artists such as Burial, Fholston Paradygm (aka King Britt), Martyn and DVA amongst several others. The fragrance strikes as one of the most relevant mastic-prominent compositions currently available on the market. A mix of woody notes which is somewhat related to the work Geza Schoen did for german designer Anat Fritz, enriched by smooth smoky elements and hyper-green / almost astringent angelica while a warm, deep and completely enveloping combo of leathery castoreum and mastic gives birth to a fragrance which is pulsating, throbbing and well rounded, just like low frequencies are. There's a remarkable human factor to Bass, something about its warmness, its animalic facets, its ability to feel alive but, at the same time, it's juxtaposed to an overall sense of detachment. It's like part man part machine. It's warm, bass-driven music generated by a human via electronic devices such as synths, softwares and controllers. It's a human sweating while dancing in a club with the biggest subwoofers ever.

To sum it up, we've experienced several fragrances which included mastic amongst their notes (Masque Terralba, Sysley Eau D'Ikar, Comme Des Garcons Chalayan Airborne and Testa Maura Carticasi to name only a few) and while I liked most of them, none has represented such a vivid and realistic interpretation of this note as Bass did. Bass, not only accomplished its purposes in this synesthetic experiment, but it's also a tremendous (and honestly quite unique) piece of modern perfumery. Solid, original and completely wearable. Great stuff.

Rating: 8.5-9/10

Drone: 

"Tim Hecker’s notion of Drone does not have any direct personal narrative, drawing instead on his imagining of “a speculative day-glow incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” For Geza Schoen, that translates into aldehydes and air notes, developing to fir and juniper, with a base of patchouli, ambergris, and vetiver".

Drone was built around the  installation  by  Canadian  musician  and  producer  Tim  Heckerwhose works for labels such as Mille Pleateaux, Alien8 and Kranky (amongst others) have become points of reference for anyone into experimental / abstract electronica. Immense soundscapes, manipulation of white noises and endless drones applied to a cinematic approach to music. The fragrance is closer in style to certain Comme Des Garcons (especially the more *transparent* ones), to Nu_Be Oxygen, to Craft by Andra Maack and, more in general, to that section occupied by clean, frankincense-inspired (as opposed to frankincense-centered), fragrances. A pretty tight composition that opens with a blast of super-sparkling, almost blinding, aldehydes. Cold and kind of metallic too yet somehow not aseptic. There's an overall incense-y presence that gives the fragrance a kind of purifying effect while a green / grassy vetiver / juniper combo provides woody aromatic facets bringing to mind of winter forests, immense landscapes covered in snow and isolationism. it's like breathing fresh air at full-lungs capacity (hedione overdose). All this, is paired to a subtle yet remarkable ambery base that provides a tad of warmness to an otherwise freezing composition…well, just a tad. The fragrance ends with a nice mix of salty / iodine vetiver /ambergris that's smooth and striking.

It's funny how this fragrance is able to conjure huge naturalistic landscapes as well as more industrial environments at the same time. It's the outdoors during winter in the north hemisphere and an all-white industrial warehouse at the same time. It's freezing and kind of angular but not completely aloof. Clean without bordering into functional smells and housekeeping products. Meditative and melachonic while being fizzy and radiating but, most of all, Drone represents yet another proof that the biggest strength of fragrances is the power to evoke images and sounds.

Rating: 7/10


Noise:

"Geza Schoen created the scent representing Noise inspired by way of Ben Frost’s deepest recesses of olfactory memories: catholic church holidays, Australian bushfire, moisture, and insect drones, among other stimuli. Those ideas Schoen connected with aldehydes, ozone, black pepper, saffron, and labdanum, to name a few".

Ben Frost's career is pretty dense and counts collaborations with the likes of Brian Eno and The Swans together with composing soundtracks for films by Tarkovsky, Simon North and Julia Leigh. He recently signed to Mute with which he released his latest album Aurora. A mix of electronica, tribal percussions, noise, experimental music and avant-garde with influences that go from kraut rock to modern electronica via punk, industrial and ethnic music. Noise is based on these musical resonances and, in my opinion, strikes as the most *typically* Geza Schoen-esque of the trio. Think about an hypothetic mix between Kinski and the Monocle Series by Comme Des Garçons with a tad of Nu_be Sulphur . A rough, dark-green spicy incense which is earthy, dusty, dry and extremely angular. It opens with a blast of piercing aldehydes, pepper and saffron to then evolve into a dark green woody-vetiver / labdanum combo which is really not that far from Kinski. Whereas Kinski introduced a hemp-inspired note, Noise opts for something aiming at gasoline and, more precisely, like spilling gasoline on a bushfire (!!!). It's fire on fire. Again, it's the naturalistic outdoors and industrial environments paired together, it's the arid uninhabited desert and the forest, it's death and life, it's piercing yet somehow comforting. A daring fragrance that perfectly captures the essence of noise. 

Rating: 8.5/10

For the sounds, please check here.
To purchase Bass, Drone and Sound, please check here.

-------------------------

A few final words on this line. My support for Ephemera and all the people involved with it, goes beyond the fact I completely enjoyed the final result (three full bottle worthy fragrances). It starts from the fact this is one of the very few projects to actually elevate fragrance from a (very often shallow) status of *luxury goods / cosmetics* to *art*. Ephemera is a solid concept not just a product.

Mucho Love, Everyone.

16.12.14

Nero Profumo's Best of 2014

Another year just passed and, as usual, we witnessed countless brands trying so hard to standout with their promises of luxury, exclusivity, quality, uniqueness and whatnot. Hundreds (if not directly thousands) of new launches, re-issues, re-launches. New brands, new perfumes, new formulae but, in the end, for the most part, the same old stories. In this more and more crowded playground, we've all tried to navigate in what has become an impossible to catch-up with scenario. We've tried to find our own standouts and our new favorites in a sea for the majority populated by forgettable juices presented in fancy boxes / flacons. Don't get me wrong, there have been several remarkable new fragrances this year but the *number of launches / good quality* ratio is getting lower and lower. Too much of everything. Too much. 


With that said, I still liked something like 40 (maybe 50) new fragrances. Bogue Profumo's Maai is definitely one of them. A grand animalic / floral chypre by one of the most interesting new perfumers currently on the market. Old-school, uncompromising and stunningly beautiful. Vero Profumo never disappoints and the new Rozy Voile D'Extrait gains a full mention amongst *the best of the best*. My third pick is for Masque Fragranze and their Russian Tea. A tremendous example that in order to make something remarkable, you don't necessarily need to deliver something weird or over the top. Wearable, easy to like, versatile and completely satisfying.

A bunch more that catched my interest includes Sadanne by Slumberhouse. Theoretically everything I don't like about fragrance but surprisingly working in its juxtaposition between berry notes, rose and animalics. Hermes finally delivered an Hermessence I would literally bath in. Their Cuir D'Ange has been a big winner in my book and I won't exclude buying the biggest bottle in the future. Angelo Orazio Pregoni and O'Driù kept on polarizing people and Pathetique worths a mention for being, beside controversy and personal tastes, a solid piece of perfumery and not simply a prank. Comme Des Garçons had three new fragrances and while I more or less liked all of them, their collaboration with controversial artist Tracey Emin and Serpentine Gallery get the prize for being their best this year. A little gem that, in the typical twisted style of the house, delivers a compelling mix of green notes, environmental suggestions and woody-incense. French firm Jardins D'Ecrivains launched Junky which was inspired by the much missed William S.Burroughs. A bizarre concoction based around hyper-green elements, hemp notes and incense. Jovoy tributed Sun Tzu's L'Art De La Guerre and it didn't disappoint. A bold masculine with an eye on the past on one on the present. Finally, Olfactive Studio and their Ombre Indigo. Beside being a tremendously wearable leathery fragrance, this one wins the prize for the most beautiful juice color to date…

For those who are not necessarily interested in novelty and are fine with something simply solid, Cuir Cannage by Dior delivered yet another take on classic leathers a-la Chanel's Cuir De Russie. Amouage presented their tribute to classic masculine perfumery with Journey Man. Cartier launched La Panthere, a sort of nu-chypre with a nice floral presence and what's possibly the best packaging amongst designers' offerings. Comme Des Garcons introduced Wonderoud and with it, yet another micro-variation on synth-oud. Not exactly exciting but so easy to wear and like.

A bunch of honorable mentions:

Serge Lutens -  L'Orpheline. This didn't grab me at first but kind of won me over with time.

S-Perfume - Musk-S. Sacre Nobi re-packaged and re-launched his infamous brand (responsible of gems such as S-Ex) together with four new fragrances of which Musk-S seemed to be the more interesting in its iteration of the *invisible-musk*.

Narciso Rodriguez - Narciso. Still one of the very few designer brands worth of attention.

Dior - Dior Homme Parfum. Basically an improvement on Dior Homme Intense.

In 2014 we've also witnessed a bunch of re-introductions / re-launches amongst which the most interesting from my point of view were Helmut Lang's entire range (finally!!!), the new version of Pascal Morabito's Or Black and the Le Galion line.

I've also discovered some (new to me) fragrances / lines I had previously left behind that gave me quite some satisfaction. Rancè and their L'Aigle De la Victoire has been a stunner for me. A skanky / animalic leather / oud combo with so much courage a no restraint. Resist Me by Liaisons De Parfums gained a special spot up there together with smoky-pillars such as Bois D'Ascese. Finally, the whole Abdul Samad Al Qurashi line. An immense range of arabic oils I suggest to not miss out for anyone into eastern perfumery or to those who simply want to discover a whole new world of fragrances..

Last but not least, I would like to mention a bunch of fragrances that for a reason or another I haven't been able to smell yet but I'm pretty sure they would have made their appearance in this article if I did. Unsound and their Ephemera project which involved perfumer Geza Schoen in a synesthetic collaboration with musicians Kode9, Tim Hecker and Ben Frost was probably the most exciting news about fragrance this year. Black Heart by Map Of The Heart has piqued my interest since it has been unveiled at Pitti Fragranze 2014. Beside the questionable design of the bottle, the juice sounds like something I would thoroughly dig. Eventually, the two new *missing-in-action* Humieck & Graef (Abime and Nouveau-ne). I'm still bummed by the fact they haven't hit the shelves yet…

That's all for this year, folks…catch you out there and have good holidays everyone.

24.11.14

Rundholz Sep.21.1966: A (Not So) New Fragrance.

I was so excited by the news of a new fragrance from Rundholz. Their previous 03.Apr.1968 was an incredibly solid take on straight forward balmy incenses slightly softened by barely perceptible floral facets. Thick, bombastic and completely enveloping. As it weren't enough already, it came with one of the most interesting bottle / box design I've seen in a while. A little masterwork which, with much of my surprise, skipped the typical association between minimalism and inconsistency by presenting something monolithic and comforting at the same time.

I'm afraid 03.Apr.1968 hasn't been topped by the brand new Sep.21.1966. It's still a take on incense but this time, instead of the smoky opaqueness of their previous fragrance, they opted for transparency, ethereal floral notes and green elements. What comes out is something extremely familiar to those who know Buxton's or Duchaufour's works. It's a sharp synth oudy-woody-incense with the addition of rhubarb, heliotrope and magnolia. There's a subtle smokiness going on but the overall vibe it's definitely more luminous than Rundholz' previous delivery. Not something necessarily bad per-se and surely still pretty much in-line with the brand's aesthetic but it feels really too deja-vu to gain a completely positive rating.

I still have to properly figure out what it exactly reminds me of but, just to give you a rough idea on the territories in which Sep.21.1996 moves in, think about Mark Buxton's Devil In Disguise, Aedes De Venustas EDP (post-L'Artisan from 2012), a bunch of Comme Des Garcons (Girl above all) and basically most of the dry-woody stuff by either Duchaufour and Baxton.

Kind of a letdown, I'm afraid.

Perfumer is Arturetto Landi who previously worked on Rndholz' first fragrance and for other brands such as Linari, Biehl Parfumkunstwerke and I Profumi Del Forte amongst others.

Rating: 5.5-6/10

16.11.14

Guest Reviewer Of The Day: Way Off Scenter

A landscape architect and garden writer by trade, Way Off Scenter is a long-established and prolific reviewer of fragrances for the Basenotes web site, first as “Vibert” and then as “Off Scenter.” He has been reviewing under his current moniker since returning from a two-year’s absence at Basenotes. Click here for more reviews by Way Off Scenter.

MAAI: A Remembrance of Things Past



MAAI is an enormous, unapologetic animalic chypre scent composed in a style that hearkens back to the tropes of post-WWII perfumery. Perfumers like Edmond Roudnitska, Germaine Cellier, and Ernest Daltroff used to compose scents of this ilk for such firms as Hermès, Piguet, and Caron. Now MAAI stands as a glorious anomaly and a tribute to an art of classical perfumery that seems at times to be languishing.

Imagine, if you will, Cellier’s Fracas bedding down with Opium and Serge Lutens’s Muscs Koublaï Khan on a mattress filled with oakmoss (real, I’m told!) and you’ll have some sense of MAAI’s overall structure. The composition feels like three massive blocks laid down over a chypre foundation. First to emerge is a pungent animalic component (the Muscs Koublaï Khan part), rife with civet and castoreum, and not all that far removed from the animalic accords in Roudnitska’s original Madame Rochas or Daltroff’s vintage Narcisse Noir. Next up is a sensuous tuberose-centered white flower accord, smoother and quieter than Fracas, but still decadently creamy and substantial. Last out of the starting gate is an intensely spicy amber oriental, seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, bergamot, and plenty of labdanum. (Opium, anybody?) The two last-mentioned notes blend with the potent oakmoss to establish MAAI’s profoundly rich chypre accord. The result is simply magnificent, and seems certain to cruise to the head of my “Best Release of 2014” list. (Not that there’s much competition.)

Once the elaborate tripartite structure is established, the components slowly rotate through olfactory space, yielding an ever-shifting sequence fragrance perspectives. Projection and sillage are both copious, especially for the first four to six hours of wear. After that, MAAI very slowly distills itself down to a marvelously warm and decadent labdanum and oakmoss skin scent, in a drydown that remains detectable for at least a day after application. Though the description might put some men off – what with that tuberose – MAAI strikes me as a thoroughly unisex composition. In fact, my wife says she has a hard time imagining it on a woman. At any rate, I heartily recommend that anyone with a serious interest in fragrance sample this great big, indulgent and uncompromising chypre. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore!

Rating: a shocking 9.5-10/10