One of the reasons I'm an admirer of the music of Björk is that it combines the finest elements of classicism with a reckless love of everything that modernity has to offer. And it struck me the other day that this may also be why I'm a fan of Andy Tauer's perfumery: his most ravishing scents draw inspiration from old school excellence whilst pushing the craft forward into the future.
Bearing this in mind, perhaps it was inevitable that he would release the Pentachords, a series of fragrances (three to start) each of which contains only five synthetic ingredients. It's a move that reflects a desire to strip away anything that might be deemed redundant in a more traditional composition and to make a statement about the importance and usefulness of man-made materials. However, although I was initially fascinated by the concept - and I believe the ideas behind it may be worth pursuing - I cannot give the resultant perfumes a ringing endorsement.
To my nose, Auburn is essentially the 'plastic cinnamon' aspect of Eau d'Épices writ large. For a few moments, it presents suggestions of other notes - a sweet citrus, a hint of amber - but it soon fixates itself on an unsettling, oddly metallic bubble gum scent that grows in intensity until it becomes quite overpowering. If we're playing a game of 'Spot Where It Comes From', I'd say Verdant is possibly the green, mossy component of Carillon Pour Un Ange. It too opens with a varied palette - a cold smokiness, a sharp, medicinal pine, a dose of bitter tree sap - but again, the contrasts fade and all that remains is a sickly, artificial sweetness.
The only one of the three which I was able to wear with some measure of comfort was White. Here, the tensions between the various components last slightly longer and therefore produce a more compelling effect: an iris note adds a corrugated, aluminium-like chill to the sweetness of vanilla whilst a woodiness introduces a gnarled, tactile aspect. The whole begins to conjure a steel skyscraper designed by the architect who made the house of the witch from Hansel And Gretel. But again, the ultimate impact is disappointing and reminds me of two decidedly unsophisticated food products, namely marshmallows and Coca-Cola.
I've no doubt that all three scents will find some fans, as indeed most do. They are suitably diffusive, their longevity is extremely good and I suppose I must concede that they are fairly distinctive. But whilst wearing them, I could never shake off the sensation that the smell reaching my nose was of chemicals. I think I can see why a perfumer might wish to set himself or herself the challenge of adhering to a pared down aesthetic, but I would've thought that in such an endeavour, the end must always justify the means. When I watch a film, I don't wish to be made aware of the 'unreality' of the special effects; I'm afraid that the first three Pentachords never persuaded me to suspend my disbelief and enjoy them not as experiments but as fully-fledged perfumes.
[Reviews of Auburn and White based on samples of eau de parfum; review of Verdant based on sample of eau de toilette; samples provided by Scent & Sensibility in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]