September 18, 2012

Opus Oils Babylon Noir, M’Eau Joe, Dapper, Dirty Sexy Wilde

Kedra Hart of Opus Oils is an indie-perfumer with an aesthetic like no other. She mixes opposites, in both feeling and effect, to create perfumes that are modern and young, yet deeply steeped in nostalgia.

It reminds me of how DJs splice apart pieces of music and put them back together in a new way. If these perfumes were scent films you would see rapid jump cuts from one scent scene to another. The effect is ironic, gently naughty, energetic and physical.

These perfumes take some getting used to, if you prefer perfumes that bring you into a mood of romanticism, or some form of classic elegance. They will give you something more like psychedelic ambient electronica in aromatic form, instead. Perfumes can be a part of the wardrobe that expresses more than one side to your nature.  These will express facets of personality and style you didn’t know you had in you.

As I have said about Opus Oils' Strawberry Passion perfumes earlier this year, this tone calls to mind the style of the artist formerly known as Prince. I also find attention has been paid to the raw appeal of the high-keyed femme fatale film noir anti-heroines of yesteryear. Or I can even see the screwball-comedy dames’ arched eyebrows raised at each other from across the nightclub, as they crack wise from within the blaze of their sequined evening gowns, smoking and drinking up a storm.

These perfumes are cloaked in the flavor and mood of vintage burlesque and cocktail culture, the show business of Las Vegas/Hollywood and many of the old-fashioned flavors of adult vice. Some of the perfumes hint of the scent of martinis and margeritas and mojitos in their top notes. There’s much in these perfumes that refers to that era that held sway in America until recently, when all comers were met with a drink in hand. But think of a bohemian drinker of absinthe rather than champagne, and certainly not beer. The men are louche charmers and the women can hold their own. All the perfumes I’ve tried are made for both men and women, reading wildly differently on each, of course.

Babylon Noir is part of the Devilscent Series based on the book Quantum Demonology by Sheila Eggenberger. I have not seen a note list for this perfume, so I will simply venture to describe the effects on my skin. This one is couched in deep ouds and woods with top notes of a bright citrus, like key lime or even kiwi; sweetened. Whatever it actually is made of, I like the way it turns my head around, because the opposites each retain their full beauty and both go full steam ahead in parallel,  while neither one diminishes or modifies the other much. It’s like holding two different ideas in your mind at the same time. Or starting to play that eternal game of should I or shouldn’t I –while bearing in mind all the good reasons for both.

Strangely enough, the most persistent aspect is the bright sweetness, which tends to go even higher into a lightly mentholated effect over time. This leads me to suspect the involvement of a sweet candied violet and/or an icy iris or some combination of both, over an oud/woods base with perhaps some secret infernal magic ritual cast over them, to keep them all apart within one perfume.

I can only imagine that the perfume’s relationship to the Devil as a theme is that familiar feeling of being pulled in two different directions. This perfume may represent the many temptations he will put before you just as you fully intend to step outside and face the world in righteous mode. Some sins have their own strange pleasures, such as pride and envy, but then every one of the seven deadly ones has its fatal attraction to different types of personalities. I don’t know what the perfumer was thinking of exactly, but this is how it relates to the story’s metaphors for me. The play of olfactory opposites could be symbolic of the perpetual struggle between masculine and feminine, or between the Devil and his wife Lilith, or between black darkness and golden light, as depicted in the book. The opposites of the perfume eventually resolve themselves into a sweetly boozy hazy mystery.

M’Eau Joe No. 3 - Hollywood Whiskey Perfume was made in a second collaboration with Michelle Krell Kydd of GlassPetalSmoke, after the unusually visceral Eau Pear Tingle of last season. This one breaks out of the gate with a caramel rich bourbon tone that is yet gentle and redolent of faint tobacco/amber. The materials say they were thinking of the blues and rock and roll and of course whiskey, that time-honored fuel of such musicians. There is no acrid bite in this ode to an intoxicant, which makes it a softer and smoother and more appealing rendition of relaxation than the real thing, as far as I am concerned. It softens down to an amber musky wood earthiness that clings to the skin like it is part of your own personality. It’s a perfume for Night People.

I think of Night People as those described in The Fugitive Kind by Val, played by a young Marlon Brando in a snakeskin jacket. They were the demi-monde of New Orleans and so dangerous and seductive it was all he could do to keep his wits about him long enough to get away before it was too late.

The note list is Top Notes - Whiskey, Saffron Attar, Rice Paddy Herb, White Cognac & Geosmin; Middle Notes - Pyralone, Honey, Rose, Violet & Chocolate; Base Notes - Dark Amber, Vanilla, Tobacco, Musk, Moss; Woods

I am not familiar with Geosmin, but have read it is an earthy-smelling substance, isolated from materials found in lake sediments. Pyralone is a Givaudan fragrance material, described as leather, green, woody, powerful, tobacco like.

Dapper is part of the Les Bohemes Collection, which is designed with a 1920s speakeasy aesthetic. A violet absolute is set against a dark aged patchouli. The candied sweet coolness of violet and orris shimmers and stands out against the dark silkiness of tobacco crossed with patchouli. The sandalwood and orris also pair together in a powdery haze that throws a sheer veil over all. This one may be worn either alone or as a layering fragrance with the others in the collection. It can go both ways as either a feminine or masculine type. It could be perfect for a Goth Lolita, dainty as a soprano whose sweet upper register may still transmit the undertow of dark possibilities devoutly to be wished.

This would also be right for a dandy who wears his hair slicked back with his evening clothes, seeking the attention of those who prefer a dark mystery filling within the sweet outer shell of a dessert presented on a glittering silvery platter.

The note list shared is Violet absolute, Orris Root, Blond Tobacco, Sandalwood & Aged Dark Patchouli.

Dirty Sexy Wilde is inspired by that era of the turn of the past century when people did not apply perfume to the skin, but only to their handkerchiefs, or their letters or other personal items. These would be left behind as tokens of their personality and ambassadors of all kinds of interest in their targets. Fragrances then were meaningful adornments. They were generally made as soliflores or based on other subtle symbolic themes from nature; to send messages along with their scent as was also so often done with colors of flowers, or dress, or specific gestures of fans and gloves.

I suspect the dandies also had their own walking stick language that signaled to each other across the drawing rooms as they simmered in the heat of the last throes of late Victorian repression. It was almost too late for such conventions indeed, as the cultivated bon mot and double entendre expressed all that was necessary beneath the sheer veil of shocking witticisms.

Oscar Wilde took the practice of glittering pronouncements to mind bending and highly enjoyable heights. He was both very much of his time, as he publicly observed all the formalities and conventions, while brilliantly subverting them by using these conventions to press against the restrictive boundaries. So he is a perfect subject for this type of perfume, meant to send a sweet seductive message from something deep and smoldering beneath it all.

This one, while as subtle as an old fashioned handkerchief fragrance, is the opposite of that convention in that the main theme references a dirtier side of nature, that is, sensuality itself. It starts out as a dark dry hay, in that galbanum tints a blond tobacco and renders the base notes the most prominent ones from the very beginning. The unusual Opus Oils signature structure flips the conventional top and middle notes to the opposite side of the pyramid, so that a subtle undertone of florals holds steady beneath the deep and dark notes. This is all lightly dusted with the fine sugar of candied violet sweetness,  softly fading into dryness as time goes on.

This perfume has been created as a line in itself, with Parfum, EdP, a body and bath oil, lotion, butter creme, and bath salts, whose beneficial ingredients are nutritive, such as shea and cocoa butter and dead sea salts, with vitamins. There is a delightful special edition flacon in the shape of a silver coffin shaped flask, with a choice of an inset of Mr. Tiger Powers channeling both Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray. He is shown as above, lolling on an ornately upholstered sofa, beside several alternatives that may be chosen to illuminate the personally symbolic significance of this fragrance for you.

The line is well priced, and available directly online from Opus Oils.  All of these have good longevity, and hold close to the skin.  They are of the mixed media type, and many have a high percentage of natural materials.  The collection is wide, and there are clear and succinct descriptions of notes and materials on the Opus Oils site.  These are only the tip of the iceberg. Personally I find my taste for them growing as the perfumer goes further and further out on a limb in her collaborations on projects with others.

Disclosure:  The sample of this perfume was sent to me by the perfumer.  My opinions are my own and I am not compensated in any way.  
Copyright 2012, Lucy Raubertas, all rights reserved.

Music to listen to perfume by: several remix challenge winners based on stems by DJ/rupture L'Avion


tarleisio said...

My curiosity about Babylon Noir has been killing me lately...;-) And M'Eau Joe isn't helping! Thank you so much, Lucy, for yet another beautifully written review!

Lucy Raubertas said...

S/T -- Thanks! That's surprising, it must be winging it's way to you separately and got delayed somehow. It came in a packet of samples to me including the M'Eau. Kedra's perfumes just keep getting better and better, cause they just get more and more wild. These seemed to fit together and flowed from one to the next.

lostpastremembered said...

I love the idea of a handkerchief or letter being an ambassador of oneself. Gorgeous idea and fun post!