Personally, though I adore extended versions of my favourite records, current or otherwise – 12″ remixed dubs with instrumental lengths you can lose yourself in: augmentations, recuttings and reshapings of the songs that can often render them fuller, more personal, with that extra space, the sense that somehow this ‘special mix’ is somehow for you and you alone – I am rarely impressed with contemporary remixes of old songs: dud, glitchy, shiny remixes made for the chart bitches and ‘gays’; those ‘club’ mixes, harsh and ravagingly in your face, which often just seem so superfluous to me with their fakely embellished, gleaming, chemical architecture; new versions, jazzed up by the latest DJ, that might yes inject new skeleton into a song, but more often than not do away with that song’s essential nature, soft tissue; its flesh and marrow, in the skinnifying, reappraising, and let’s face it, money-grabbing, commercializing, process.
The same of course goes for perfumes. While a ‘digital remaster’ of a perfume, where the internal elements of a scent are polished, strengthened, and ‘expertly reassembled’, can sometimes work out alright (think Jacques Polge and the re-editions of the Chanel classics such as Bois Des Isles and Cuir De Russie (for the Exclusifs) which, while losing a certain emblematic fluffiness, the dusky musks of the times in which they were originally created, achieved a certain shiny clarity that made them feel fresher, more ‘relevant’ – the dumber, more metallic, and watered down remixes of classics such as Arpège (Eclat D’Arpège), Joy (enJOY), Calèche (Soie De Parfum) and so on, drained; injected, infused with shit, can, to a true perfume aficionado like myself, sometimes feel quite barbarous.
Chanel N°5 Eau Première worked beautifully, and I think I in fact prefer that version to the original in some ways (my least favourite version of N°5 has always been the vintage parfum, heretic though that may be, as I just can’t take that persistent, tongue-lolling musk), but I would say that Monsieur Polge’s classy work with that one was something of a fortuitous, skillful anomaly. On the whole, these remixes (wouldn’t you say?) turn out to be just wannabe, tin-eared flops.
This post is supposed to be about Parfum Initial, anyway, and as I waxed boringly the other day, Shalimar, that deep twenties classic by the beautiful house of Guerlain, is one of my holy grails. Its final notes on me reach a kind of perfection: essential, an enwrappingly soft, smouldering of leather and vanilla that in winter or summer feels like a second skin, a perfume I go to when I am too lazy to think of anything else, when I am feeling dumb and sexy and ready for a night out somewhere, tight with myself, just ready to smell good and easy.
In all honesty though, one can tire, on occasion, of that top note structure; that heavy dose of skin-burning lemon and bergamot that is interacting, sometimes uneasily, (especially in the current versions), with the flowers and balsams and the animalic castoreum of that base, and which can leave me, on occasion, feeling a bit queasy. I do have bad Shalimar days, when I mourn what has been taken out and wonder what is ‘off’: it is ‘old fashioned’ this perfume; it does have baby powderyish elements, and it most certainly does not, to the young nose about to go out clubbing, smell in the least bit ‘contemporary’.
It is easy to understand therefore why Guerlain should want to remix it up a bit for the next generation, this perfume, to try and conserve their famous cash-cow for just a little bit longer before she runs out, finally, of cream – mais oui maman, bien sûr que je porterai Shalimar dans l’avenir quand je serai femme – and though I of course myself would never choose ‘Parfum L’Initial L’Eau’ (not exactly a catchy refrain, is it?) over the original – not in a million years – I did find myself buying a bottle of this slimmer, younger, Shalimarish incarnation for a friend of mine’s birthday recently.
Having already chosen the discontinued Shalimar Lite for herself already and worn it well, I knew this scent would work on Nicole, and was pleased to find that I was right. She usually goes for fresh, modern, florals: Pleasures, Marc Jacobs, Dô Son, but as I said, also liked Shalimar Lite – her first foray into orientals I believe – and besides, she found the Parisian frou-frou of the pale pink pom pom on the bottle’s flacon irresistible, as do I, and you know what, that is sometimes almost enough on a mindless day when you are feeling shallow or in the mood for something beguiling and pretty. And in any case, if you just substitute the lemon of Lite for an acceptably refreshing grapefruit (and add a few ‘fresh florals’,) they are not, really, those two perfumes, all that different.
What I do like about L’Eau is the fact the heart of the perfume really is Shalimar. Those sensual, oriental base notes are all there waiting in the depths of the scent, just ever so slightly attenuated, and with an extra light citrus floral head note that persists into the heart. The modern chorus, that grapefruity, sassier, floral opening (‘freesia’, ‘hyacinth’ ‘muguet’) gives hints of the modern edit, with glintier, synthetizer chords overlapping that classic refrain…….
And deep down, though I suppose I do aesthetically find the whole exercise in a way quite pointless (because….well why wreck something nice?), as remixes go, this delicately vanilla-tinged floral-lite, aeons away from my own purring Shalimar animal, is kind of interesting in its own way, if only to see how a well loved theme can have so many different variations. The instrumentation may be sharper, the graphic equalizers a bit tinny on the middle and treble, but Shalimar’s song, in this twentyish, lite-weight take, remains, essentially, almost the same.