Le Labo’s niche, omnipresent global blockbuster Santal 33 has had a big impact on the world of perfumery. Warm, synthesized sandalwood notes have become a legible handle for the person unsure of what non-mainstream perfume to buy while still wanting a product that is considered modish, and this scent is now the go to for many people for its ability to mould itself differently on the individual – the freshness of its papyrus and green fig milk iris contrasted cleverly with the fluidity of its Australian sandalwood. I would never wear it myself, but I did experience this scent on a friend at our 25th anniversary a couple of years ago; Yuta, a sculptor with a cheeky Scottish accent having lived in Glasgow when he was a student and picking up the dialect quite convincingly, sidled up to me at the party in some kind of hessian tunic and he smelled quite amazing.
Many budding independent perfumeries as well as mainstream cosmetic companies have followed suit with rivers of wood perfumes that now exist, many of which I find dull as dishwater personally – about as exciting as chopping a log – and I don’t really know why I bought Comme Des Garçons’ Concrete when I know that neither of us likes buttery sandalwood (which this basically is, despite its concept of ‘cracked santal’ : getting into the heart of the sandalwood subject and reconstructing it olfactorily from the inside. (or something)).
But I do love the bottle. And I bought this, along with Black Pepper, in the same shaped flacon as a thank you to D for helping me with the book during the mad rush of editing and writing in the summer of 2018 : liberated, we had gone to Tokyo to let loose one Saturday afternoon and he had sprayed them both on together, at the Aoyama boutique, one on each arm, and we were enjoying the combined smells as we walked along, mingling with the perfume of the city. Black Pepper – which is intensely strong, and smells so completely of black peppercorns it blows people away, is still used on rotation, but Concrete now just sits on my desk. Sometimes I spray it into the lid as I quite like the scent that it leaves in the room, but in essence, this was a mistaken purchase (how many of those have you had yourselves, I wonder? And would be so profligate again now? …)
Asphalt Noire – I can’t be bothered to look into the reasons for the optional ‘e’ on the end of the name – but presumably to make the noun either masculine or feminine and therefore ‘unisex’, is quite a nice addition to these warming, sawdusty sensations that everyone seems to love so much. With its notes of cedar, tonk, amber, birch tar and narcissus, this is an airtight but soft woody scent with a certain je ne sais quoi, vaguely reminiscent of the sweet wood of L’Artisan Perfumer’s Bois Farine, which I always quite liked (the absorbency of wood can be quite fortifying when all you want to do is cry bitter tears) ; with its the musky, sandalwoodish base, I was reminded a little of Bulgari’s cult classic Black. The perfume is pitched at just the right octave – a little higher than boisés of late – is easy to wear, and might be worth a sniff if you like these blonde-wooded confections that in fashion terms you can’t really go wrong with.
Talking of appearance, I am about to iron my work clothes and get in the shower, put on my face mask ,and go back to work. At my new desk. Not knowing what it is going to be like; whether I will panicked in some corner trying to keep a lid on things; whether my co-workers will be cold or just as normal; what the lessons will be like, how they will pan out – it is all rather daunting. I am nervous. Even the city I work in itself, Fujisawa : I find it so dull. I was so glad to be away from it. Because of its location, educational establishments, convenience, (very plain) beach, and restaurants – the place is thought of as an ideal place to live, especially for families (personally if I could never see it again I would be happy. Maybe in twenty years or thirty I might have a flicker of nostalgia, if I am still alive – but I would so much rather be staying here in Kitakamakura. At least I know that Kamakura is still here, though, to come back to each evening; cracked roads with plants and weeds and wild flowers everywhere; overgrown grass, magnolia trees, the woods; the temples..). Constructed just in time for the cancelled Olympics – the island of Enoshima is close by and was going to be the host place of the sailing events – Fujisawa City recently decided to redo the ‘park’ in the centre, by the station, and every time I see it I feel angry. Aesthetically. Aesthetically furious.There was too much asphalt and stone there before as it was: now, although it has been expanded and has a lot of useful seating areas for citizens – old people, students, the unemployed, the crazy – to lounge around on – they are done in a hideous, flecked fake marble effect, the rest of the ‘recreational area’ made out of plastic, stone, brick – a hideous hodge podge of failed design ideas, with a proudly presented centrepiece of newly brushed astroturf. Not even grass. My old/new ‘concrete’ reality.