There is perfume for a private day out. And then there is perfume when you want to be noticed : to explode in the public realm. Particularly as Burning Bush, Big Perfume can be spectacular : I remember a lost couple in Tokyo from New Zealand in pursuit in Shinjuku shouting ‘Follow that hair! Follow that perfume ! (Giorgio’s Red, in Parfum and edp, people raving about my smell all night); Poison, Rogue’s Flos Mortis:(could I even stretch to Amarige……?) …… they all pack a delirium punch.
In Liverpool, back in the North, they are already having ‘social experiment ‘ raves to ‘see what happens ‘ epidemiologically (isn’t all this a little too soon?)….. In this picture you can see thousands of maskless party people, no hand sanitizer allowed inside in case you are secretly bringing free vodka into the club- all dancing ecstatically, let in to the space on condition they can prove that they have been vaccinated ( I understand fully their need to do so; I also can’t wait to go mad to music again in a room full of people, but you do have to wonder if this is all slightly – or in fact extremely , insane……)
If I do go out in a costumed context in a bacchanalian situation at some point in the foreseeable future though I have a secret urge to try a combination of vintage Tresor Parfum and Parfums MDCI’s Rose Siwa. A ravagement of roses. I would imprint myself on the ravers’ cilia and nose brains for eternity : the rich cedarwood musk rose of the vintage parfum a perfect launchpad for the neo- YSL Paris that is Francis Kurkdijian’s genius outlier for the usually more pretty and elegantly sedate niche brand MDCI : soaring violets and roses like the Laurent classic from 1986 (?) strafed gleefully with vivid lychee : I know that the scents would interlock stunningly to the point of mind alteration.
Alternatively, or even as a final revelation of my three acts, I might select, samples secretly concealed, a few moments of Atomic Rose by Initio – a steroidal tribute to Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’Eau and a forceful roserush of Bulgarian, Turkish and hedione over vanilla and Egyptian jasmine that could be a fatal, strobal trip just over the edge
Last Wednesday, a gloriously sunny lunchtime, I got off at Motomachi – Yokohama’s fabled chichi little shopping street of jeweller’s, bakers, coffee houses and clothing boutiques, before proceeding to my new school that takes two hours to get to in the north of Yokohama; packed trains, the underground subway – I wanted to break up the journey. I also wanted to see what outdoor dining options there might be for our Golden Week day out in Yokohama, which, inexplicably, given I know the place like the back of my hand, I was as excited about as a kid at Christmastime.
Down the backstreets, we could have avoided the crowds, I think; crossing over to Marine Tower and Yamashita park, which was as technicolorfully beautiful as an MGM film with so many roses it almost felt to me unreal; so many people, though; albeit generally masked; I took off mine to have a take out coffee in the sun on a bench in the central rosarium which garnered some looks from passersby, but I just needed a moment.
Through the park, damp with life, sunwarmed, along the bayside to Kannai, the Silk Centre with its antique shops and bizarro emporium of old Americana, cheap records and vintage perfumes; down past the old government buildings and wide boulevards of the more austere area of Kannai (plenty of outside tables down Nihon-Odori I thought to myself), down past the baseball stadium, and across the thoroughfare into Isezakicho, with its old man park, and all our haunts – I was dying for today, thinking we would be outside the whole time so there would be few risks. It would have been fun.
D has nixed our plans this morning, though, sensibly declaring that he simply doesn’t want to be on crowded trains during this busy time of the year and that during the night he had a very bad feeling about it, feeling uneasy (we would have still had to get there and back, and probably it would indeed have been too packed with people on the Keihin Tohoku line for comfort), although I do wish he had said so before I had already had a bath and was bright eyed and dressed, ready to go in my successfully doctored vintage Hermès Cologne/Eau D’Orange Verte which I have remixed with several citrus oils, hakka mint and patchouli, creating my very own Eau D’Orange Verte Forte.
He is right though, of course. We shouldn’t really have even been considering going up there in the first place. The government has decreed that people should stay inside at this time with the increasing caseloads across the country (Osaka seems to be in quasi-disaster mode), although this is not borne out in pictures of people having happy days out in Kamakura and Tokyo: Yokohama, as one of the most beloved Golden Week destinations, would have been exactly the same. Although the young are increasingly being affected, as they are elsewhere, this isn’t stopping them from wanting to stroll in the sun with ice cream; buy snacks and souvenirs, and despite the deplorable scenes in India and South America, and elsewhere across the globe, where people are dropping like flies, it still seems far away.
One difference between my attitude and D’s stems, I think, from the fact that since last June I have constantly been travelling on crowded trains and buses to get to the schools I work in, whereas he can either walk from here into Kamakura or just travel one train stop from Kitakamakura. His year has been remarkably less claustrophobic and dangerous than mine, although the complete lack of social distancing in his working environment (aside big stores, this simply doesn’t happen here in Japan; there isn’t the space, or the will) and being in a windowless staff room with sixty teachers – they leave the entrance and exit doors open a little – doesn’t exactly inspire corona confidence in his working conditions. I worry about him. With less than 2% of this country vaccinated (the incompetent government’s slow response could make you gnaw your own fists off with frustration), you feel continuously vulnerable. Still, at least the classrooms do have openable windows, as do the corridors, some air vents. My situation has been a complete potboiler. Pure claustrophobia (I inherit this from my mother, who has panic attacks just wearing face masks even for a few moments.) Last Thursday, having arrived at the school that led to the vertigo attack (still ongoing), finding out that we now have a new staff room on the floor below, I realized, with clarity, spatially, the full extent of what I had been suppressing. I don’t think I have really conveyed the full physical reality to you properly thus far. When I say ‘school’, I think you picture these big American high schools with their spacious corridors and lockers, like in the movies, but these are juku, or night schools; Thursday’s establishment in its entirety is smaller than an average British house’s downstairs, but with about at least a hundred students – possibly 150 – crammed into it with no windows. And as I have said before, my classroom was a windowless box within this space, with just some fan extractors and air con and an electric fan to disperse air particles but probably enough to make an epidemiologist scream. Now that the school has expanded – I will have a new classroom when I go back next week – and there are fewer students brushing up against you, bumping into you, literally in your face (and how many of them are asymptomatic?) because ‘it can’t be helped’, I think the sheer compression of my mind will be alleviated a little, but I do see now that these were appalling circumstances, and that my brain, and spirit (and balance) understandably, said no, and then crashed. At the same time, like everyone else across the world, we have ‘just been getting on with it’, all the teachers sweating and stressing behind their masks for ninety minutes at a time and barking out their lessons, because the more frightening alternative is unemployment.
The world over, it has been a contrast of, or combination of, extreme suffocation and/ or isolation. People in New Delhi gasping for air and dying outside overcrowded hospitals. People trapped without work or money in their apartments in Sao Paolo, each country trying to get the right balance between sustaining the economy and containing the virus; the more callous or neo-fascistic leaders such as Trump, Abe, Johnson, Putin, Modi and Bolsonaro purposefully downplaying the dangers at the beginning of the pandemic to the people for the sake of ‘the economy’ and leading to the situation we now find ourselves in, when had countries followed the example of more responsible leaders in New Zealand and Taiwan and imposed thorough lockdowns from the start, so much of this death and devastation could have been avoided. But no – ‘business’ had to come first (even though in the long run, surely the human and financial cost of this virus rampaging through entire societies is so much higher?). What a mess. And now the Olympics?
I think I was obliviously happy to be going into Yokohama on the crowded train today because I am simply ‘used to it’. The other day, twenty minutes to Yokohama from Ofuna and then changing trains and then 35 minutes on another line with people all sat next to each other with no space between, I almost stood up to move to a more spacious, aerated place but then realized that I was too tired to. There is a sense of resignation. It is almost like a death wish, I think, you become almost blasé. ‘Fuck it, let’s just go out and have some fun.’ But then again, this type of attitude is precisely why we are where we are in the first place.
It is a given that when it comes to perfumery, sex sells. French niche house Initio, feverishly popular with urban scentholics, business people, the generally frisky, and Youtubers for its well blended, strong, direct, sweet potions, makes the erotic thwack the central conceit of its entire business. With the most extreme of Gallic overstatement in each of its copy descriptions, you might have to start wiping yourself down with an ice cold towel before you even get to the smell: perfumes that will have you gasping for air;the lust so all-asphyxiating you will be scrabbling to loosen your belt from the first inhalatio as your dress falls to the floor or you find your Saks suit being clawed off your back by some ravenous horndog who can’t even wait to get upstairs to your hotel room where the force of the hammer and tong pummelling that will immediately ensue will be enough to nail the bed through the floor and crash down onto an unsuspecting elderly couple happily reading the newspaper in the room below. The perfumes, according to the taglines, arethat hot. Fortunately, they are also actually quite good : on the whole: they are sexy, they are unbridled and just get straight to the hook up: $200 scents for the club, the hotel bar, for maximum sillage, seduction, and vitesse.
D happened to be wearing Rehab yesterday, and we soon found ourselves having frenzied sex on the seat at the back of the bus, clothes ripped off, panting and hurling, passengers screaming and children crying as the sirens wailed on the streets outside from the cars of local police who had been called up frantically by appalled local residents just hoping to go shopping for their dinner and not expecting such unforgettable scenes on a rainy Saturday afternoon . Jets of
Rewind. No. We were sitting on the back of the bus : : : : : I was wearing Fleur De Lalita, and D was wearing Rehab, and I was just thoughtfully weighing the brand’s description of the scent with my own actual experience of it:
“Fall for a fragrance. Hard. Like You’d fall in love at first sight: Rehab promises a return to the ecstatic pleasure of perfume. The harmony of its natural raw materials reveals from the perfect combination of bergamot, black pepper, lavender and spices on a bed of sandalwood and musk, building a truly hedonistic formula. Experience the pleasure of smelling something so profoundly, you have the disconcerting feeling you could reach out and touch it. Rehab. Dare to feel the ecstacy’.
Like Miss Diana Ross, I did reach out and touch (but not like that: don’t worry); to bring D’s arm to my nose, where I slightly lowered my viral inhibiting paper mask for a moment to smell the nub of Rehab up close (it is true: the sillage and general impression of this perfume is excellent: balanced and very attractive, in a Histoires De Parfums 1899 Ernest Hemingway kind of way: warm, aromatic, quite come-rest-your-head-on-my-delicious-hairy-chest, but at the same time very normal; gentlemanly, old school, (and certainly not very original). Plus, as with most of the scents I have huffed from this range – wearing a padlocked iron chastity belt so as to resist the possibility of whacking off and abusing myself constantly – I find there is a definite oversaturation of white musk in the end notes, a slightly unintelligent perfume ingredient that I have always personally considered a little tacky.
Absolute aphrodisiac, my favourite of the collection (and one I wish I could pull off, actually) is a perfect, meringue fresh vanilla musk though, with castoreum and white flowers protecting a G spot of leather and amber. Extraordinarily cute, this is a go-for-broke take me with U. Probably most suited to a slinky young woman in night mode, it really does the job as intended: to a lot of people, myself included, being whispered to in the ear by a beautiful someone brushing up close in some AA would doubtlessly prove irresistible.
Psychedelic Love, one of the few overt florals in the range, flirts openly with the link between love as a narcotic and drug use to the point of le overdose :
“The signature of this narcotic bomb lies in three essential ingredients : rose, hedione, and heliotrope. While the hedione activates the brain regions linked to pleasure and the libido, heliotrope goes even further. Equally tender and illicit, this crystalline powder hides its intention well. Beware of its creamy, powdery and floral facets, wavering between vanilla and almond! Used in over doses, heliotropin becomes a psychoactive substance. A forbidden shiver rushes over the skin. …….A substance under strict regulations, its possession is strictly controlled by law, because heliotropin is used for the chemical synthesis of MDA, a prohibited drug and substitute for ecstacy. Confronted with this diabolical indulgence, no one is safe from an olfactory obsession that can soon become a real addiction”…….
Well, what can I say? The scent is quite nice; a ylang ylang/heliotrope/patchouli configuration with kaleidoscopic facets that would make it perfect for a night club scene with Keanu Reeves in John Wick. I must confess to a secret predilection sometimes for these soulless but strangely exhilarating action films or steamy Netflix series with their sex sirens and ironed-hair pleasure pusses; the just-so tailoring, phosphorescent cocktails; hot Ukrainian bodyguards; the little black dresses and pulsating club music; the endless fight scenes and ever increasing body counts (John Wick three was quite exhausting to watch in that regard; so much wasted couture); the internationally agreed upon homogenization of club style, from Delhi to Buenos Aires to Helsinki to Miami: the consensus standards of Tom Ford/ By Kilian glamour ………….the Initio perfumes fit these style diktats like a glove. Direct. Approved. Erotic but classily turned out : sharp and taloned and premeditated as Dior nails.
On me, the morning after wearing Psychedelic Love, and Magnetic Blend 1, having almost been fucked to death at an impromptu orgy that began at an Ofuna shopping centre when I walked into the supermarket wearing the scents on each wrist and was beset by a huddle of shoppers who just couldn’t contain themselves no sorry I mean that I went to bed with one on each wrist for comparison; and while the deliberate bad breath of the Magnetic Blend, a modern twist on the Mouchoir De Monsieur civet contradiction I could imagine having a ‘dangerously attractive’ palette for certain people with little self respect ( …” The ambergris unleashes the animal drives. The scent arouses instincts, causing the abandonment in the surge of pleasures”), when I woke up the next morning, spent and sore as hell, my first thought was: what are those cheap oud chemicals on the back of my hands? And then I remembered what I had ‘done’ the prior evening…..
Most people will probably not be disappointed, however. Potent wood/amber notes are extremely popular; many adore this brand; perfume fora are full of scent wearers obsessed with ‘performance’ and ‘projection’ and potency; for a large swathe of Gucci and Balenciaga’d up consumers, perfume really can be boiled down to sex and bewitched fashion immediacy: they want to walk into that closed off VIP space and pull on the spot, based on their Instagram and cologne alone.
To finish, in case you are getting a little too hot under the collar reading this and are already writhing nude up against the wallpaper completely out of control (all of this, I must admit, to my averagely libidinous self, is so 50 Shades Of Grey: but if you do feel like some extra sauce to continue this very special Super Sexy Sunday please read my piece on sadomaschism): let’s bring things now to a geyser-like climax, screaming until we wake the whole neighbourhood, with the latest addition to Initio’s Chamber of whips, chains, and scented lubes…………..Musk Therapy.
One’s other half has shown a relatively new affiliation with musk scents recently, a trend I am enjoying: mid-toned but aromatically soft musks that give a generous impression, charismatic: and he rather likes this one, praising its skin-right and calming, peachy properties. Like many in the collection, there is definitely a neo-90’s vibe to this perfume, with sweet base accords that put me in mind of perfumes like Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Mâle and Parfums Nikos’ Sculpture. But perhaps I had better leave the last word to Initio: I have my own desires and erotic fantasies, like anybody else, but at this stage, after all these imaginary orgasms, I just can’t keep up any more with their priapic, Gallic, erotomania:
“Close your eyes.
Smell and feel a new way of sensations. Experience the power of scent therapy….
Natural white sandalwood blended with an overdose of white and pink musk creates an ultra addictive milky and velvety accord. The white magnolia activates the pleasure receptor while the cassis stimulates the energy, releasing a supplement of eroticism. Musk Therapy, a magical mood enhancer, paves the way to relaxation and a sense of well being. Finally, a delightful alternative to artificial paradises and their illicit substances. ..