A very happy, fulfilling, healthy, stimulating and beautiful new year to everyone. Last night we went to our local temple, Engakuji, to a precinct we had never been to before, and where we rang the sacred bell. It felt purifying.
A wonderful 2020 to all.
Christmas Eve party with our neighbours at their house ( two doors down ).
Scent of the Eve :
I am in LOVE with this at the moment.
Hope you are having fun also whatever you are doing,
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.
Michael Judd is a brilliant photographer, filmmaker and performance artist from Australia who lives in Nagoya and Osaka : like us, he has something of a double life, teaching in the week for four days or so then indulging in his imagination on extended weekends, where he absorbs the neon ghosts and soul of the city into his eerie, velours celluloid.
As Belgium Solanas, the mesmerizing alter ego that often has cabaret audiences ( myself included ) in tears – there is often something overwhelmingly dreamlike and touching in the distilled cinematic melancholy of the performances : Michael appeared in Duncan and Yukiro Dravarious’s hilarious comedy horror film Girl Goned from two years ago and is going to edit their new opus, ‘Spoiled Identity’, the first scene of which we filmed in Golden Week ; analytical, sincere and unflinching – his is a towering, formidable presence.
At Space Witches, an art performance event held in the bowels of deepest Shinjuku, Belgium came on stage, an hour or so after midnight, like an alien air hostess meets Judy Garland meets Sean Young replicant from Bladerunner, holding a copy of Bowie’s Heroes, to a medley of songs glitch-edited over Laurie heartbreaking Anderson’s O Superman, a spellbinding staging that culminated in a spontaneous hugging of my friend in the audience,
A male and female pro-wrestling couple, jostling in the throng of the most packed together electric honeycombs of Shinjuku had earlier spotted D and I ( and smelled me) in Giorgio Red; the girl had apparently said to her boyfriend ‘Follow That Hair! : they then jumped in the cab with us, and the man was soon in emotional floods of tears at the end of Solanas’ performance, which in its lack of tack and its deadly, heart rending earnestness left a black hole of emptiness and longing in the pit of your heart ( in a good way ).
An alien being emitting much needed empathy for this world.
I was standing next to Laurie when they embraced, and could smell commingled sweat (from all our dancing ), and traces of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Gem coming off from the silver dress, an elegant, spiced and long discontinued floriental from the late 80’s I had given Michael in lieu of a flacon of vintage YSL Opium parfum, which for some reason I had always thought he should wear on stage.
Opium, an almost mythical monolith of a perfume, stills smells sexy, and so FAMILIAR – almost too much so – as though it were imprinted in our collective DNA, but inevitably the current formula is vastly thinner and less complicated than the original distilled tiger cordial of resins, spices, vanilla, flowers, mandarin oranges, and seemingly a million other ingredients doused in balsams and patchouli that for me is the very essence of late 70’s and early 80’s glamour. Scoring a sealed bottle of the extrait recently, I decided to send it to Michael. He won’t be able to wear it in the classroom ( where he usually is to be found in Gorilla Perfume’s Breath Of God), but as Belgium, I am excited to sense that opiate of Studio 54 excess drifting from the stage……. perfume, in this context, can consolidate, re or de-emphasize an art piece, or simply take you to an added dimension.
Off stage, as guests and performers chatted and drank together in the interval before the next act ( a hypnotic, bald, female Buddhist stripper covered from head to toe in exquisite calligraphy), Michael took my hand and said we had to go and take some photos up on the streets outside. Handing me his camera, I snapped away outside ramen bars and coin lockers, and felt, for a few minutes, that we had actually gone back in time, almost as though we were Jerry Hall and Helmut Newton
, like ripping through the fabric of time
On Monday morning at Strawberry Fields in Kamakura I had a naughtyish splurge on a cache : for sixty pounds sterling, a vintage 30ml Opium parfum, a No 19, a Caron Fleurs De Rocaille extrait, but these were kind of thrown in, really, because the real purchase, and prize, was this vintage edition of Amouage Cristal for men ( or possibly Gold? Experts please weigh in ) that was roaring to me silently from the top of the glass shelf.
The bottom of the bottle says Cristal, apparently a rare perfume on eBay that sells for around 1,000 dollars – the Japanese internet has one for half that
but the notes do seem to match those of Gold, an intense ( though this word doesn’t do it justice, not remotely ; I have never known anything like it ), aldehydically animalic, musky soapy floral that smells just like a pristine extract of Madame Rochas parfum on United Arab Emirates steroids and cristillated to spectacularly nuclear strength.
The second I sprayed this oily, golden slick of perfume on the back of my hand I experienced a delirium tremens of being enveloped, head to toe, in regal downiness and flowers; rose, jasmine, but most specifically a powdery sandalwood and overall smell that reminded me very specifically of Imperial Leather soap – which I have always loved, and can use up a whole bar of in one long sitting…………….despite the swirl of richness gradually coalescing into one skin smell, the overall feeling is definitely that familiar scent; I use the talc and the deodorant spray, and having this too as the main event after all that initial background pampering will be orgiastically pleasurable for me. I was practically WRITHING on the train back home in olfactory arousal: tending and loosening like a cat in heat …… perhaps the sublimated civet, that I experience without consciously sensing it: some secret code of sensuality immersed in the blend that makes it just so horny yet so MAJESTIQUE.
To me, anyway.
D was having none of it.
“it smells……. pissy, or something” he said when we met in Ofuna : “I don’t like it”.
And on Basenotes :
“Musky, soapy floral, like taking a bath in the clawfoot tub of my gtandmother’s house in the seventies “
says one reviewer.
“I got through the initial blast of granny’s partially soiled bloomers, tiptoeing around the house trying to avoid my wife”,
Most other reviewers spin variations on this ‘old lady’ incontinence theme ( WHICH I DON’T GET AT ALL ::: I JUST SMELL SWOONWORTHY ARAB PRINCES IN WHITE ROBES )
– an (ageist, sexist ?), scaredy-cat reaction to a man’s scent that veers from the usual, ‘masculine’ brutality? Or maybe Duncan is right after all and I am just blind : though he does like the beginning, which is glorious: derailingly erotic for me personally, there is something in the base he can’t abide. A grimacing recoil. It almost makes me fearful, like some dreaded halitosis I am unaware of, that my olfactory apparatus has gone awry. Why does it smell like that to him ??????
As another reviewer of the perfume says, (as I mentioned I think this perfume must be Gold, (though please correct me if I am wrong) / could the ‘cristal’ on the glass be just referring to the material of which the bottle is made? It does feel ludicrously expensive]]
Yes. That was what I was wanting to say.
Wow is precisely the word I would use to describe this extravagant creation.
Which obviously I am only going to be able to wear indulgently alone, doors locked and bolted ,at home.
Well, here it is !
The only reason I haven’t done this before now is that I wanted the cover and the physical reality of the book to be a surprise for my parents, who finally got their hands on an advance copy on Wednesday ( ‘look, Roger ! It’s arrived!’ shouted my mum as a book-shaped parcel was carried by the postman down the driveway and they weren’t quite sure how to proceed ::: should there be some kind of special ceremony or ritual for removing it from the envelope and bubblewrap? In the end they just released the book from its package and were, I think, thrilled.)
They love it ( how it looks, anyway : I don’t know what they will make of the florid nonsense inside), and spent the exhilarated day clutching and caressing it and carrying it around the house with them everywhere they went
( as did I :::: :: the design team have done a great job I think, and I had no idea it would all turn out so sumptuous. Initially, there were many things to be worked out – inital concepts were too fey and girly; the title was different, so was the essential composition of the book, but from the back and forths over the spring and summer we eventially settled together on a contemporary Art Deco feel, which reflects the luxuriance of all the perfume reviews quite well, my love of vintage, and it is all just something I can’t help but feel rather delighted about.)
The book is HEAVY: a proper tome. Like a book of spells, or a volume from an old library, and though not as lengthy as my blog ramblings nor quite as personal, hopefully the new concision and the new taxonomy of the world of perfume I have come up in this guide with will appeal both to perfume people and also the curious neophyte. My goal is to induce passion for the subject – obviously there are just too many perfumes in the world to be definitive : the book is called ‘In Search Of….’ for good reason; I wanted it to be immersive and indulgent and also a little strange…
Anyway, the book comes out in the UK on March 21st, published by Hardie Grant, and on April 2nd in the US, distributed by Chronicle, as well as being available to order worldwide on Amazon. I also have an event being organized by The Perfume Society at Rouillier White in south London on March 28th, where I will be doing a reading and a book signing (!); I am really looking forward to gathering family and friends and mingling with perfume maniacs while sniffing the marvelous selections of Michael Donovan ( this really is one of the best perfumeries, so I am delighted the party is being held there).
Unfortunately, though, space and tickets will be quite limited, so I can’t make this a big thing I can invite everyone to, much as I would like to. I was wondering, though, if any UK people, particularly London people, reading this, can think of any venues where I might have a more casual sip and sniff type of affair -or even just straightforward event with books and bubbles – Hardie Grant will ship books there if it becomes an event. I would love a Black Narcissus hook up !
I don’t know. I am just so excited ( if daunted : you never know whether anyone is going to like what you have created), but this time last year, when I was still wallowing in self pity with all the aftermath of my operation and arduous rehabilitation, I had no idea whatsoever what was just round the corner – nor the year of extraordinary pressure that was ahead of me, with a full teaching schedule and book deadlines constantly looming)
– but I DID IT
And I want to C E L E B R A T E