Sometimes perfumes smell good or bad. Sometimes they smell incredible, and sometimes they smell meh. There is the odd perfume that reaches into our brains, memories and maybe even our DNA, and these perfumes evoke a visceral and emotional reaction.
I experience the fragrant presence Guerlain Apres L’Ondee emotionally, as it evokes stormy weather and feelings. Many people say it makes them sad. It’s been said many times that Guerlain L’Heure Bleu is a heartbreaking scent, something evoked by summoning the sensation of the “blue hour”, a true melancholy. Perhaps that is what I love about it. And there is the CB I Hate Perfume line. Christopher Brosius (CB) created “anti perfumes”, which are more like his fragrant memories, and bottled them. His memories of childhood trips to the beach in At The Beach 1966, the books and leather of In The Library, or the lush green garden and tomato plants of his aunt in Memory Of Kindness. Do give them a try if you are even slightly intrigued by the concepts. They are wonderful.
And then there is the whole synesthesia thing, where one experiences one sense as another. I have this with Guerlain Jicky, because it smells like velvet to me. And Chanel 28 La Pausa absolutely smells purple. This is more like voluntary synesthesia, and I love closing my eyes when I smell perfume. It’s a journey, and often an interesting one.
Which brings me to my review of the Ephemera collection of perfumes. I made a conscious effort to NOT overthink these reviews. From their website:
Ephemera presents olfactory compositions based on musical resonances and reverberations. The nose behind the project is Berlin-based Geza Schoen, known for the groundbreaking Escentric Molecules series as well as various avant-garde/conceptual scents.
In the first phase of the project, three musicians – Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, and Steve Goodman (aka Kode9) – created raw sonic material which Schoen then reinterpreted to create three different scents: Noise, Drone and Bass.
These scents and sounds are now used in an installation environment, and also encapsulated as unique perfumes.The project is curated and produced by Malgorzata Plysa and Mat Schulz of Unsound.
These perfumes come with music and videos. Not like officially, in the same package, but as an installation, and, online. So I tested each perfume while sitting in a quite calm space. First, while just listening, then, watching with no sound, then, with both the sound and the videos playing. And I loved everything about the experience. I love the smells and I love the sounds and imagery. Love.
Tim Hecker’s notion of Drone does not have any direct personal narrative, drawing instead on his imagining of “a speculative day-glow incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” For Geza Schoen, that translates into aldehydes and air notes, developing to fir and juniper, with a base of patchouli, ambergris, and vetiver.
The air and aldehydes are what I first notice in Drone. It is magical and otherwordly, and somehow earthy and grounded at the same time. Think magical medieval forest, but full of silvery transparent trees. It smells clean and cooling, but lighter and more elevated than typically clean scents, with less of a laundry vibe and more of an ice cold mountain stream water vibe. There is a hint of incense, but it’s barely there, and somehow the concept of “levitation” is something that just makes sense when experiencing Drone. From the notes given to me before I got the perfumes, I thought I would like this one the best. There is no best, I’ve discovered, but I do love Drone dearly and feel calm when I wear it.
Geza Schoen created the scent representing Noise inspired by way of Ben Frost’s deepest recesses of olfactory memories: catholic church holidays, Australian bushfire, moisture, and insect drones, among other stimuli. Those ideas Schoen connected with aldehydes, ozone, black pepper, saffron, and labdanum, to name a few.
Noise makes me think of outer space and meteorites – it is dark. I can really smell the ozone, and combined with aldehydes they are totally trippy. I get the church incense as well, and the whole of the scent gives a feeling of darkness and yet calm. Like a black hole. There is also smoke, which I was afraid would really bother me, but instead it feels like something bigger than me yet not out of control. The smoke is like the scent you get in your hair after sitting around a campfire. It’s not a lovely smell, but it is a nice one. Geza Schoen masterfully renders such a prickly idea as fire and smoke into a calming float out in space. Nicely done. I like this and was so certain I wouldn’t. If you like woodsy scents, maybe with a touch of smoke, you need to try Noise. If you like your scents weird and burnt smelling, you need to try Noise.
For Steve Goodman (aka Kode9), the idea of Bass connects with childhood memories triggered by the sound and the accompanying scent he remembers of a broken, burning vacuum cleaner. Geza Schoen translated this to a scent which opens with woodsmoke and rum notes, developing into leather, mastic, and tea notes, and finishing with castoreum and moss, among other scents.
Bass is an odd one. I did not get broken burning vacuum cleaner until I read it, then it was surreal and right there. But only for a nano second, just long enough for my brain to register it. There is a heavy feel to this scent, as well as a darkness. The castoreum adds a human smell, almost like, um, hair. But not in bad way, more like a musky “hair of someone you know and love” way. Does that make sense? There is no out of doors description for this scent, and what I am imagining is a dark cupboard, perhaps with leather jackets and some gardening implements. There are forest-y elements here, but a dustiness I can’t quite identify. Oddly I like it. It would be a perfect scent to wear at night, with a leather jacket and jeans, with second day hair and someone you love. Can I explain why a burning broken vacuum cleaner scent is something you need? No. I will say if you like leather scents, you should try this one. Adding a note like tea, and a pine-y note like mastic makes Bass quite wearable and lovely. Trust me….
All in all I love this collection. I was so intrigued when I heard about it. Then I read about the notes and thought “Oh my god no I will never be able to wear these”. Wrong. I love them all, and interestingly, they all smell wonderful together.
Ephemera perfumes are sold in a very limited number of specialty shops right now. They will be adding more. You can purchase them online for now, along with their amazing artwork here.