DIS- connect: A Story of Strange Attractors

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For as long as I’ve been writing about perfume I have believed it to be an art form. This is a position I have to defend because of the sheer commercialism behind most manufactured fragrance. The advent of independent perfumery has allowed for fragrance to find places to shed the commerce in search of the truth that art points to. Over the last twenty years there have been more and more opportunities for scent to be seen through an artistic lens. The latest effort is called DIS- connect.

DIS- connect is a collaboration between Design Artist Francesca Gotti, Photographic Artist Francesco Romero, and Perfume Artist Omer Ipecki. Sig.ra Gotti is one of my favorite people I have ever met in perfumery. I have only met her a handful of times when I have been at the Italian fragrance expos. She creates sculptural enclosures for fragrance. Sig. Romero and I have never met but we have shared the perfume blogosphere for many years. I have been struck by his photography many times. Mr. Ipecki is the independent perfumer behind the brand Pekji. When we met in NYC his passion for life was obvious, he has turned that into scent.

These three wanted to create an exhibit where all three of the disciplines would come together. Except a worldwide pandemic got in the way. Speaking with Mr. Ipecki he said, “it really was meant to be an exhibit, an immersive experience. But now, aptly, they are all disconnected from each other.” This has resulted in a group of three pieces from each of them. A book of photographs by Sig. Romero, three scents by Mr. Ipecki, and a container to hold the perfume in by Sig.ra Gotti.

Since March I have been enjoying all of this in my own version of an “immersive experience”. I downloaded all the photos from the accompanying Instagram page onto a thumb drive which I streamed to my large TV. I was given the music playlist that inspired each piece of the exhibit. That was coming from the speakers. I sprayed myself with 20 sprays of each perfume. At the same time I have some samples of the material Glebanite which Sig.ra Gotti gifted to me. I had those in my hand twirling and flipping the pieces I had. I spent one day like this with each of the scents. As I watched the images flash by, I looked for the ones which came close to what I was feeling. The Glebanite revealed itself to me as I was within each sphere of fragrance. The music took me to a place where all these things had the space to make their mark.

Photo: Franceso Romero

DIS- 1: Decay

Music: The Trail of Tears by William Basinski

As I sat watching pictures while wearing DIS- 1 I began to think about the process of decay. It begins at the moment of inception. The rates are different, but the black balloon begins to fill. At the same time we build the mound of our life. As it gets higher, we get closer to meeting that growing orb of decay. Glebanite if you look at it seems like solid stone. Then you pick it up. It is as if the stone has hollowed itself out. An unlikely source of entropy.

The keynote of the fragrance is a CO2 extract of costus. Costus has always suggested the funk of putridity. Mr. Ipecki uses that as he weaves through it the pleasantness of jasmine, angelica, and saffron. That’s the good. The weight of the blackness descending comes with castoreum and a plastic doll head version of vanilla. The costus is the encroaching end but the things worth living for are still present.

Photo: Francesco Romero

DIS-2: Concrete

Music: Infinite Abstract by Erik Truffaz

The greatest sense of separation comes through the concrete edifices we have built. DIS- 2 seeks to emulate that pushback the solid walls we have built have created. This is where the look of the Glebanite is paramount as it represents these monoliths. The feel of it, the lightness recalls the fragility of these barriers. If we only have the courage to bring them down, the taxi is waiting to take us away.

Mr. Ipecki uses an amount of galbanum meant to confront to make one want to separate. It gets sharper from there violet, synthetic musks all put up their own concrete walls which make me want to turn away. Mr. Ipecki chooses to provide no relief. There is not a safe ingredient to hang on to. This is meant to drive a wedge.

Photo: Francesco Romero

DIS- 3: Paradox

Music: Stave Peak by Loscil

If you are truly disconnected there is a point where you begin to crave what is missing. The togetherness of yourself and the world. You can’t live inside your own head forever. You have to eventually step out. when that happens the antithesis of it all comes to be as everything crashes together in a big, concentrated pile. Which just might send you back to solitude. Grabbing for the faux-solidity of the Glebanite to leverage yourself away. Yet for one glorious moment the crush of the world is pleasing, until it isn’t.

Which is exactly how DIS-3 plays out. It seems like the closest to a typical independent perfume. It begins with a swirl of smokiness through nagarmotha and the floral rosiness of geranium. Patchouli and vetiver also seem like part of the wider world of perfumery. You are back where it is pleasant, it is normal. Then camphor upends it all. It drives those pleasant ingredients into hiding for a moment as it is all you smell. Over time they come back but they seem warier as if a glance from the camphor will send them running.

When I spoke to Mr. Ipecki he asked me if I found a relationship to everything. I told him they might be disconnected but they felt like they were in the same gravitational field. As I spent my time in my immersive experience, I realized gravity wasn’t the physical theory that described this, chaos theory was. Particularly one of my favorite parts of it, strange attractors. That says despite the desire of objects to want to stay apart they can’t help but be attracted to each other if only for an instant. The larger the differences the more interesting the moment of interaction. Throughout my time I would find the music and the perfume or the Glebanite and the picture holding my attention. The other pieces had flown away. Only to return to create new attractions.

As we emerge from a true DIS- connected event a reminder that we all can find out own strange attractors seems appropriate.

Disclosure: The perfumes were provided by Mr. Ipecki. The photos are all courtesy of Mr. Romero. The Glebanite was a gift from Sig.ra Gotti. The music courtesy of Spotify.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Rubini Tambour Sacre- Africa Via Italian Creativity

When my mailbox begins to fill up with commercial fragrance all vying for a similar demographic it is easy for me to worry about the state of perfume. There are pockets of artists who are working to make things which come from an inner vision instead of a focus group. One of the most vital group of creatives come from Italy now. There is a willingness by the Italian brands and creative teams to make perfume the consumer has not encountered before. It is not perfume for the lowest common denominator it is perfume for the connoisseur. One who sees the art in something most see as functional. As a self-titled colognoisseur it is those perfumes which make writing about fragrance so gratifying. Rubini Tambour Sacre is another triumphant release from an Italian team of passionate artists.

Andrea Rubini

I met Andrea Bissoli Rubini almost four years ago at Esxence in Milan. He was introducing his first fragrance. The first words he said to me were, “I was born into a family of perfumers.” As I tried that first release, Fundamental, the proof was in the bottle. Sig. Rubini believed in the power of perfume to be more than pretty. He assembled a team of fellow Italians to achieve his vision; perfumer Cristiano Canali, writer and perfume historian Ermano Picco, and artist Francesca Gotti to create a memorable package. It is a team of like-minded people who all added their piece to the creation of Fundamental.

Ermano Picco

When I was told by Sig. Rubini a new fragrance was coming my first question was if the same creative team was working with him. As soon as he said “yes” my expectations grew. I waited somewhat patiently for my sample of Tambour Sacre to arrive.

Cristiano Canali

Sig. Rubini wanted to translate the rhythm of the African drums he heard on his trip to Somalia into a fragrance. Africa has been a fertile inspiration for perfumers which allowed Sig. Picco the opportunity to provide insight into the paths less taken by others. Sig. Canali is another of the young star perfumers of his generation. His desire to find contemporary applications of the original building blocks of modern perfumery creates a bridge between the past and the present. Sig. ra Gotti’s contemporary sandwich of materials encasing the bottle provides the visual piece as she uses the native iroko wood used to make the African drums which inspired the perfume. Full circle.

Francesca Gotti

Tambour Sacre opens with a spear of spiced sunlight as orange and cardamom come together. The drum beats begin in the distance as white pepper thrums with a sharp piquant slap. The heart is a fabulous alternating rhythm of coffee, tuberose, and cinnamon. The coffee is that fresh-roasted scent of beans which exude a hint of bitterness underneath. The tuberose is the greener version which has become a staple in recent years. This is where Sig. Canali calls back to the past with a modern ingredient. The roasted coffee and the green tuberose form a sinuous cadence around which the cinnamon wraps itself. The heat of the spice creates an expansiveness within the tuberose and coffee which builds to a crescendo. The base uses the resinous mixture of benzoin and myrrh on top of a tonka bean-sweetened sandalwood. This is what remains after the drummers have finished; a sweetly sacred woodiness.

Tambour Sacre has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Fundamental was such a singularly beautiful piece of artistic perfume it wasn’t obvious it could be replicated. Tambour Sacre proves that the right team with the requisite care can find that kind of success again. The Rubini team of Sigs. Rubini, Canali, and Picco with Sig. ra Gotti took me to a drum circle in the Horn of Somalia via Italian creativity. It is what Sig. Rubini was born to do.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Rubini.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Rubini Fundamental- Faith Restored (Part2)

Every year when I attend Esxence I wait for that moment. It comes when I am introduced to a new brand and it just captivates me from the first moment I smell the strip. This year that moment occurred when I heard the first words out of the young founder’s mouth. When I stepped up to the booth at the beginning of my third day Andrea Bissoli Rubini looked me in the eye and said, “I was born into a family of perfumers.” The earnest passion with which those words were spoken let me know that something special was on the way. The perfume called Rubini Fundamental lived up to every bit of the promise in those words.

Andrea Rubini

Andrea Bissoli Rubini

As I was smelling the strip Sig. Rubini told me his story. How he wanted to assemble a “Made in Italy” team. He asked nose Cristiano Canali to help design the perfume. He asked fellow blogger Ermano Picco to help refine the brief. He asked designer Francesca Gotti to create an unforgettable package to capture the past and the future. Each member of this team executed their task brilliantly.

Sig. Picco imagined Verona in 1937 as the small perfume shop in town serves the ladies in their iris-scented face powder. The actors still wearing their greasepaint. The alluring smells of the denizens of the local house of pleasure. Finally the smell of ripening Soave grapes on the vine ready to be harvested. These are the fundamentals of Fundamental.

Sig. Canali took a mix of great natural materials and combined them with modern synthetics which creates that Retro Nouveau vibe I like so much. Many attempt this but very few pull it off as well as Sig. Canali does in Fundamental.

rubini side view

Side View of the Rubini Fundamental packaging

Sig.ra Gotti has a very unique perspective when it comes to packaging. She took this new material made from recycled Fiberglas, from boats, called Glebanite. Like an olfactory Oreo she sandwiches the bottle between two slabs of Gelbanite. When I saw it, and touched it, it felt like old stone. It wasn’t until I picked it up and saw how feather light it was despite looking so solid that it struck me that again the future was inspired by the past in Sig.ra Gotti’s design.

Above it all Sig. Rubini conducted his team of impassioned Italians to realize his vision.

Fundamental opens on a Hesperidic accord of bergamot, tangerine, orange flower, and a couple of synthetic citrus notes which add nuance and texture. The orange blossom in particular carries the early moments. Then we get the powdery iris as it floats above the top notes. The Soave grape accord also comes in with the powder. Sig. Canali finds the balance between crisp fruit and slightly alcoholic. It is as light as the iris making it the right partner for the heart of Fundamental. The thicker unctuous smell of the greasepaint also comes to provide the contrast to the pretty notes with a bit of bohemian insouciance. This is made up of vetiver and another set of synthetics which adds an olfactory thickness to Fundamental. We head further into the base with sandalwood and leather providing a carnal promise if you are just willing to take a step towards it.

Fundamental has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Everything about Fundamental makes me elated, and renews my faith, at the state of independent perfumery. Sig. Rubini assembled a group of like-minded visionaries. Together they carried themselves to the heights of creativity. I could wish that this was fundamental thinking for everyone making perfume. As long as Sig. Rubini can keep using his heritage to fuel his future I am sure that Fundamental is only the beginning of something quite marvelous.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke