I feel like Linda Blair at the end of The Exorcist: de-possessed.
As if a wieldy and bulky malign computer chip had been removed from the back of my neck.
While this year has not literally been Armageddon, it has frequently felt like it: masked populaces hiding indoors, police brutality, street wars, beheadings, looting, menacing dictators removing freedoms – and a vast sense of general oppression.
It is thus perhaps not surprising to find perfumers who are exploring precisely this in their creations : some solace, even glamour among the ruins; defiance in the devastation. Flowers growing angrily through the charred cracks of toppled buildings, refusing to be held down. The glowing embers of narcotic flowers caught on the warming breeze, as the smoke from burning cars and city buildings loiters menacingly in the air.
Both Flame and Fortune (“Pulp fiction as a fragrance. A bouquet of white flowers, spice and citrus heated until it catches fire. Deep smoky notes in the dryness of the fragrant desert. Dramatic.”) and Tyger Tyger ( “A Post-Apocalyptic scenario, where traces of a highly sophisticated civilization survived in the dark and fearful conditions of collapsed and destructured world”) are extroverted perfumes to wear copiously at this time, whether it be for the celebration of liberation from tyranny in having a private disco in your own home; or just clambering alone out onto the balcony in your metallic tiger chain dress and leather mask and dancing ferociously to Rihanna (or…. Duran Duran : though Bianchi’s inspiration for her perfume came from the eponymous poem by William Blake, ‘Tyger Tyger burning bright’…….I have to say I love to think of it also being an ode to ‘Tiger Tiger’ – the b-side of New Moon On Monday).
Flame and Fortune – such a great name for a perfume in 2020 – is a dry yet immediately voluptuous high-sex woody neroli that is perfect for an outfit with heels (if you are not fond of the oud/amber note popular in many a fragrance out there these days you may not like this, but with the addition of an apricot honey facet, squinting in the flames you can almost imagine a glimpse of Serge Lutens’ Miel De Bois; the accord in the base of the scent representing the burnt incineration of steampunk society à la Mad Max Fury Road.) Otherwise, this is a tart, glamazon spritz that works perfectly from top to bottom : a green, sharp neroli/ petitgrain opening warmed through with tuberose and a shot or two of whiskey and incense for good measure – which reminds me of the good old days of going out ( if you can still remember those…………..); the fun and grandiosely footloose feeling of taking the proper time to get dressed up, while listening to music in your room, as you grab the perfume you have decided on, applying it liberally, and head contentedly out the door into the humming air of the cold starry night.
Coming home late yesterday evening, jubilant, triumphant, to find the sample of the ultra-narcotic Tyger Tyger by Francesca Bianchi waiting for me on the kitchen table, in opening and spraying it I was almost delirious with all the white flowers (jasmine, tuberose, frangipani et al) dripping into themselves polyamorously into peach honey, heliotrope, sandalwood and an underbelly of of smoky oudh leather. Disconcerting but mesmerising, not sure, at first, about the balance, I kept nevertheless repeatedly inhaling this sweet and intoxicating perfume from the card that I had sprayed it onto (and went to bed last night in it, waking up with the more sedate, oakmoss/patchouli dry down effect still on my hand eight hours later) – feeling high. As with Flame and Fortune, both of these perfumes made me somehow think of my old compilation tapes: neat chunks of experience; songs that you loved in the charts as a teenager in the eighties that you cleverly segued back to back on your favourite playlists of the day, sealed into forever in the ribbons of radiowaved, magnetic-coated polyester in white or black plastic (I still play my audiocassettes at home all the time). The Bianchi, with its warm and luscious Colour By Numbers, made me think of the gleeful exuberance of my childhood favourites Culture Club (the Sarah Baker maybe Madonna’s Burning Up); all oozing lip gloss, rouged cheeks and chequered disco floor abundance. What Francesca Bianchi’s perfumes might sometimes lack in delicacy – her scents are always wilfully potent – she certainly doesn’t lack in generosity, soul, and fullness (there is so much stinginess these days in niche perfumery!). In contrast, this new, very timely, perfume, like her recent vanilla- patchouli-honey number Sticky Fingers, based on the classic naughty Rolling Stones LP, is packed to the rafters with goodies – almost ludicrously abundant and erotic. If you are drawn, therefore, to the rich, unstingy perfumes of the past, when perfumers poured in floral absolutes into their fragrances like lush bartenders on a bender (the original Panthère de Cartier, say; Guerlain Mahora extrait; Montale Tiare Intense, which this perfume brought to mind in terms of glimmering richness and texture) and you feel like celebrating this weekend in a giant ruched up ballgown on the flame-licked pop video movie set conflagration of a scaffolded construction site near you while downing trayfuls of shots and letting off fireworks (I will join you if I may ;Burning Bush will also be wearing these) I don’t think you will regret it. Both perfumes are fun – and marvellously unapologetic.