Accordions: Andy Warhol Silver Factory and Fumerie Turque
The traditional fragrance pyramid contains one flaw: unyielding linearity. To say that, on application, a scent is concentrated at a single point from which it then expands in three distinct stages, is too simplistic. Certainly, if pressed, we can all produce the names of fragrances that roughly adhere to this model, but more often these days the fragrances that really provide an odyssey for the nose and the mind are either fairly straightforward or deliciously unstable. It is this latter group that primarily interests me today. It is a known fact among perfumers that a really sterling note is given depth and complexity through the “backup” performance of an often unlikely accord. Many times, such backups are the special signature of a particular house or nose. In perfume-speak, these are the “middle” notes.
In the case of Bond No.9 New York’s Andy Warhol Silver Factory (due out next week) and Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque (2003), the backup accords sequester themselves in a middleground which, in a most nonlinear fashion, exposes itself numerously in the lifespan of the scent (on the skin). And what’s more, these accords seemingly conflict intellectually with the primary idea of the fragrance. In the case of both Silver Factory and Fumerie Turque, the notes which take primary billing are resinous, self-assured, sensual and big. (Did I say “big”?) The backup accords, however, are delicately floral. They are squeezed accordion-like in between the larger notes, amplifying or muting them as the pleats of the bellows expand and contract. Silver Factory has violet, jasmine and iris, while Fumerie Turque has Rose Otto and Egyptian jasmine. Left to their own devices, the tobacco and incense which we associate with these scents would be one-dimensional and literal: we’d either be contemplating a temple brazier or navigating a room of puffing narguiles. Instead, the hidden floral accords deepen and transform these fragrances, sweetening the bitterness of one while sensualizing the social rituals of the other. And instead of inhabiting backlots, simulacrae of the real, both fragrances allow us transport to a shimmering historical moment and to the deepest parts of collective memory.