After gleefully combing the plush kitsch bric a brac emporia at the Silk Center and an exhibition on Saudi women’s headdresses at the Yokohama EurAsian Art Museum on Saturday, we went for a slow and relaxing dinner at the Cafe de la Paix for beef stew comfort food, red wine, and a view of the yellowing ginkgo and zelkova trees outside – as autumn, though still warm here, alights its inexorable touch of melancholy in the air, and lends the perfect November backdrop to the grander, more atmospheric side of Yokohama, the area near Osambashi Pier, Marine Tower and Yamashita Park.
It is sometimes quite nice to just linger in one or two blocks of a city, in detail, taking your time ( we marvelled at the richness; just how many intriguing places there are packed into one dense area – I imagine that this is what New York must be like in the fall, a city I should already have been to..) : I love boulevards, apartments, misted windows; unknown happenings hidden in stone buildings ………after a while we had made our way to yet another place down a side street down another side street ( the fact you will never discover all the bees in the honeycomb; the dive bars, the cheap eateries; a boxing gym, old wooden houses.. it is this that I love about cities; the evolving labyrinth you can never a hundred percent know).
Stormy Monday – rather than Gloomy Sunday – was a neon lit, tucked-away live house we eventually found with GPS; instruments ready for a rock set.
Star of the show – and this woman really is quite something – was Emi Leonora, a legendary punk jazz prog rock chanteuse and brilliant pianist, who mainly improvised her songs, beginning with a guttural, but melodic pitch perfect howl, and with jazz and classical pianistics, joined gradually by her tight-as-fuck band on guitar, drums and bass, rising and apotheosising up into Zeppelinesque/King Crimsonesque rock funk mesmers that had us in thrall and writhing on our banquettes as she glissandoed and arpeggioed up and down the piano like the instrumental break in David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. Again and again like a thunderstorm in your heart.
The singer was wearing Chanel No 5. Greeting her when we came in ( D has miraculously already shot her in his film, somehow collecting a whole fistful of strong Tokyo divas in his recent years of flitting about different scenes and theatres and venues) in pivotal scenes of madness;she gave off powdered musk emanations of carnality I recognised – so womanly, fleshy, disturbing in the lower notes but damn sexy; but couldn’t quite place until I saw the bottle next to her things on our table
Great to smell this aldehydic classic in a new context. Of fierce aesthetic and mind, Emi has been a fixture of the Tokyo demimonde for three decades in various guises but is still constantly trying out new things ( this was only the second time the band had performed together apparently, which was miraculous. They were a pulsating organism ). I felt she was fully alive, agitating the moment and reacting to it in the moment; yet the perfume felt, and smelled, like a nod, despite the rebellious middle finger of the music – to classical taste – she is a lady underneath. There was also a happy birthday – the bassist had just turned sixty, followed by a raucous song with cake and candles in celebration of that; and then another announcement, to the absolute delight of the audience, that they had just got married. Inspiring.
I am increasingly questioning my subjective perceptions when it comes to perfume, realizing more and more that scent truly does smell quite different on different people and that when testing out new fragrances I need a model.
It is also always fun to give perfume to people as presents, so I took some samples along with me to the film shoot on Saturday, an absolute riot of a day that ended with a mayhem in a bar scene in Fujisawa via a quite outrageous one filmed in the woods somewhere outside Totsuka, but began with a serene and exquisite scene at a tea house in Kamakura ( pictured ), titled The Way Of Tears, a lesson in which the abducted students at the Academy are taught the correct way to cry – with homework – as part of their ‘sensitivity training’.
Michael, pictured left, has what I call a really good ‘canvas’: his skin brings out perfumes in a very clean and huggable way; we had a flea market sale a few months ago to raise money for Spoiled Identity, featuring clothes and bric a brac and a slew of perfumes I didn’t need anymore, and he decided to pick up some vintage Chanel Egoiste (1990), a sweet cinnamon spiced sandalwood that always smelled vile, even nauseating, on me but which on him was stunning : an entirely different skin interpretation with a warm, gentle aura I would never have recognized as being the same perfume.
Liquid Illusion is a another sweet perfume I somehow thought he would be able to pull off. Although I briefly considered keeping the small bottle for myself ( with almondy heliotrope over a dry, rooty iris note, what could possibly go wrong?), but there is something about the insistence of the dry amber, irone, iracine and obstinate tonka bean in the base note that I knew would just gradually grate on me : he loved it unhesitatingly straight away, though – a perfume you would ‘inhale greedily in an elevator’.
Rumi, the kimono clad sensei in the centre of the shot, whose tears flowed almost too freely for the scene (I think she is actually something of a grande actrice but just hasn’t realized that about herself yet), had not eaten breakfast that morning, neither before nor after going to the specialist shop to have her dress fitting in Kamakura, in order to be able to carry off the strictures of her many layered kimono and feel right for the part. She felt faint ( and looked very pale ) when we all met at Kamakura station, just managing a small energy drink through a straw, and emitting a faint scent of incense powder that was beguiling and befitting her generally mysterious atmosphere. A perfume lover, embroidery teacher and couture maker, she told me that recently, rather than her usual French classics – she loves Ricci Farouche in particular – she has taken to wearing traditional Japanese incense in special powdered forms, as skin scent; and invited me to come round one day this month or the next to sample them myself – an invitation I am definitely going to take her up on. It sounds like the way to also perfume myself, come my month-long planned hibernation this December.
I proffered Gold Leaf to her, a new, very gilded, rich, mellow fruit of an autumnal ambered chypre to her that is beautifully blended, enigmatic and sure to be very popular addition to the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz line of perfumes that covers the full spectrum of the fragranced alphabet; although I personally don’t enjoy East Indian or Australian sandalwood notes on my own skin, so would not be able to pull this one off myself, I agree fully with Tora who sent me the sample that this perfume somehow takes her to the edges of a memory she can’t quite place; locating you in a ‘nostalgia of the present’.
The teashop, down a side street in Kamakura with a traditional room at the back, was a tranquil little place, selling glassware, wooden furniture, and all kinds of tea related paraphernalia; there were even gold-leaf covered chocolate ganaches placed on ceramic trays in the entrance which I thought was an odd coincidence. Rumi had found Gold Leaf a tad too sweet given her current more austere predilections, but after we had finished the scene – which, despite the dark sardonic comedy of D’s script – with the students learning various techniques of crying, from the one single tear rolling down the cheek of each attendee, to full wailing, but which despite the hilarity of those filming and watching left all the actors looking curiously, genuinely desolate by the end, I offered the sample of Gold Leaf instead to Michael. On him it smelled very complex, burnished, a little too ‘mature’, perhaps, I thought at first, but he was immediately intrigued by its obvious elegance, and the concept that perfumes really do differ tremendously depending on the individual ( an idea that he said he had never really considered before). As the day of filming continued in different locations, the scent began to feel more at home on him, perhaps more pleasing, ultimately, than the less emotional Liquid Illusion, whose name I hadn’t initially realized the complete aptness of until immersed, Saturday morning, in D’s strange, captivating, and poetic, vale of tears.
….. what perfume ?
This is the first perfume I have smelled by Rogue Perfumery and I need to know more. I am in love. Described by the company as an ‘indolic dirge’, Flos Mortis, or Flower Of Death, is a tuberose and jasmine tincture of potent florals over leather, osmanthus and redcurrant that, despite the thematics of decay and floral decadence, is in truth more like a fresh and scintillating Lazarus (‘wow, that is so vivid‘ said Duncan when he smelled Flos Mortis last night).
This is a perfume that truly leaps from the bottle : alive, with an onslaught of pungent, but pure, wintergreen notes that make Tubereuse Criminelle seem like a cowering ninny in comparison. The clean, accompanying jasmine absolute that tangos with the tuberose puts one in mind, at certain moments, of Sarrasins, as well as Lust by Gorilla Perfumes (which is fascinating and ravishing on some people, but just too indolic for me, like suffocating on mothballs), while the beautiful, natural tuberose absolute at the centre of the perfume – green, creamy, pink – blowing concurrently hot and cold – does at times, as you might expect with a high percentage of natural tuberose oils, also remind you, albeit briefly, of the seminal Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle, which is greener, transparent, more ‘scientific’.
Despite these tuberose and jasmine remembrances, Flos Mortis works entirely in its own right, with a discrete identity fully intact, and on my skin, rather than the faecally sour indoles you might expect from the perfume house’s descriptions (its “sweet, deathly opening“, its “dark-minded Victorian themes”), the central locus of the perfume is more comparable to vintage Poison: rich, a bit dangerous ; warm; glowing; gorgeous.