I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Monday 12 November 2012

Landscape and Belief: Smoke, Stone and Surveillance – New Gorilla Perfumes 2012 (Part 2)

The other new Gorilla fragrances are incredibly diverse and range from smoke and metal to sunshine and seduction.  The Voice of Reason was growlingly gorgeous and bowled me over again, my skin prickled and I felt momentarily lost in darkness. It is powerful reactive stuff, this fragrance, a woozy, barbequed genie in a damn fine bourbon-soaked bottle. That reeking of cold bonfire as you move in and out of doors on November 5th, eyes stinging, hair full of stars and dirty night. Inspired by the Beat Generation: Kerouac, the porno visionary Burroughs, Gil Scott Heron, and the tar-pit rumblings of Leonard Cohen, The Voice of Reason is smoke incarnate. Devil’s breath, exhaled through jazz trumpets and wrapped in sin. Huge doses of my beloved tonka bean and sandalwood ebb and flow on the skin, making the drydown one sensual slide into sweet sweet embers. It smells filthy too; I realised that the other day as I wore it out to meet a friend who leaned in and inhaled my throat like a starved vampire. Dirty smoke. Who could ask for more?

The Bug. Hmm. I loathed this on application. I kinda knew I would, it packs quite a galbanum punch and this is one of those notes I really dislike when it sits up and stares at you. (Yes… Penhaligon’s Bluebell…. I’m talking to you…..). In discreet doses it adds a certain whoosh and curve to scent; Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit literally takes beautiful plunging flight as the galbanum in the top drops off and the other notes mingle and meld.  This weird almost anti-scent was the one that caught my attention when I was following Lushfest as it was seemingly inspired by the contradictions and paranoia of the modern electronic age. The buzz of everyday lives, surveillance, wires, noise, images, information technology. We crave it, seemingly cannot live without it, yet on a daily basis it is used against us, we are hacked, spied on, photographed, scanned and observed by any number of cameras by any number of institutions. A challenging concept for a scent.

The first spray was shocking. Really bitter and repellent, with an underlying sweetness that really reminded me of Raid and other insect sprays that mask their killing prowess with a unsettling sickly sweet aroma a little like playdough. Then it started to transform, virus-like on the skin, opening up its facets one by one. Elemi and labdanum resinoid throb like veins and give the scent a buzzing, beating sensation. Massive tonka note too, softening the edges a little, a whisper of voices perhaps, soothing the shout of galbanum. It has an uncomfortable tongue on battery feel, an element of impending poison. It is very odd to find fragrances that push and pull, repel you and then draw you back down to inhale afresh as the notes transform. There is a strong pepper note and this works rather well, seasoning an already complex scent with a persuasive yet elegant presence. I will say that The Bug is not for me, but I want it in my collection as it demonstrates how a very abstract concept can be translated into scent with verve and robust eccentricity. And you never know, I may love it in months to come.

Sun and Euphoria are both by Mark Constantine and quite different from the other new offerings. They are colognes and feel brighter and more therapeutic in tone. This is due in part to the high levels of citrus oils used in both. They are literally much sunnier scents, smiling off the skin, creamy and in the case of Sun, luscious and sparkling.

Sun took me by surprise, I am not a citrus lover at all, the oils turn on my skin and as a migraineur, many citrus oils can trigger terrible migraine attacks. Mark was inspired on a Stateside roadtrip, listening to the soothing harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel on the New Jersey Turnpike. His sudden vision of the sun as a big glowing orange on a lollipop stick has been joyfully translated into in a fabulously fun scent bursting with one of the most delicious tangerine notes I have ever smelt. That moment of digging fingers into sweet Christmassy orange flesh and juice oozing over fingers. Mixed with spicy woods and orange this vibrant fragrance really explodes out of the bottle. It does have a glow, warm and sweet; lovely to smell off others I think. I layered it with Sikkim Girls and it smelt divine, like rice pudding with grated orange zest.

Euphoria I like a lot less. It is well made and smells smooth and potently reassuring. Inspired directly by the techniques and oils of aromatherapy, the scent is designed to affect and enhance the mood of the wearer as it drops onto the skin. Sun and Euphoria are designed to be topped up during the day as and when you need a touch of brightness or wellbeing, a pick me -up…..

My problem with Euphoria is the high doses of clary sage and neroli, classic aromatherapy oils. Mixed with lime oil, rose, petitgrain and a splash of bitter grapefruit, the scent is far too reminiscent of an array of face oils I have used over the years, especially products from the Decléor line and particularly the Liz Earle Superskin Concentrate which is very heavy on the neroli too. So my associations with this are probably biased, it smells far too much like skin care for me. I’m no doubt doing it a huge disservice, but I cannot wear it. I know some people will love the calming vibe the oils have as they warm up on the skin, that hot herb aroma that draws some people down into themselves. I’m not great with that; my relaxing scents are different, sweeter, smokier, and more sensual. 

Last but not least, Sikkim Girls. Sikkim is a landlocked Indian mountainous state in the Himalayas. Rich in Buddhist and Nepalese traditions it is one of the least populated states in India. The fragrance was inspired by an experience had by world famous sitar player and composer Sheema Mukherjee when she was visiting a Darjeeling teahouse. Randomly, the teahouse owner warned Sheema about the dangerous sexual (and potential man stealing) charms of the exotic Sikkim girls. Although their traditional dress covers them from head to toe, he claimed with just subtle sways of their bodies they could charm any man away from his woman. Dangerous indeed. I would like to imagine the subtle swaying was heavenly scented with floral, leather tinted crisp white notes reflecting the snowy peaks of their mountain-bound land.  To a certain degree this is mirrored in the subtle weaving of a really clean frangipani note with vanilla and tuberose and jasmine absolutes. It should be heavy, I have never been that keen on the Gorilla use of jasmine as it can err on the side of smoky ashtray for me.

But I am very partial to my indolic florals and Sikkim Girls is brightly constructed, opening with a breeze of light floral tones, a lifting of the air around buds and damp leaves.  This innocence is then submerged in the heady aromas of frangipani (or plumeria) one of the most delicious scents in nature and one of the hardest to transfer truthfully into fragrance in my opinion. The note needs to be handled with delicacy and skill.  But when it is … oh the results are divine, sensual, creamy and exotic. Like warm oiled skin in the sun. Sylvie Chantecaille’s Frangipane used to smell so good, with a marzipan rolled in diamond dust quality, now sadly stretched out and dimmed by reformulation. Songes by Annick Goutal and Beige by Chanel have both played the note well. I wore Songes for years until a random encounter destroyed it… sigh…

Sikkim Girls sits well with this esteemed company, perhaps not as complex, but certainly just as beautiful to wear. Not the longest lasting scent on me, I had to re-apply several times, it died off rather quickly for a scent rich in white flowers. I found this a little disappointing, but while is bloomed on the skin, it was a study in how to float petals on the water of skin and blow gently for subtle winds to carry the scent skyward. 

So. The Gorilla Bus travelled around the country, city to city, weather pattern to weather pattern, scenting the word as it passed through. Continually innovating by doing things the old fashioned way: spoken word, song, dance, bards, troubadours, arts, bartering and playing with a sense of scented archivism, the Gorilla peeps mine a rich tradition of travelling showmanship. Allied with their witty use of electronic media, they understand how to reach out and diffuse their unique and in many ways very old message. Lush and by default, Gorilla is a community of like-thinking minds; this is very evident in the collective joyous hive-mind way of celebrating their work, success and different-ness of their brand. Fiercely loyal and proud of their ethics and working practices, I admire the relentless and fevered searching for inspiration in a plethora of beguiling sources. But with this new collection, the tapping into a palpable sense of folkloric and pagan inspirations has produced an eclectic and truly exciting range of startling fragrances that map out new emotional landscapes. Not all of them are perfect, however, many journeys have disappointments along the way. But the travelling itself is always worth the effort of observation and commitment. I have really enjoyed writing about these new fragrances and will be wearing and loving The Voice of Reason, Hellstone, Furze and probably Sikkim Girls for some time to come.  I strongly urge you to venture our and try these brave new scents. For a while you will be transported. 

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