Friday, February 14, 2014

Persolaise Review: Coven from Andrea Maack (2013)


I dismissed the first three fragrances from Andrea Maack as derivative and uninspiring. The next two, Coal and Silk, were marginally better, but they didn't possess sufficiently distinct personalities to move me to write about them. However, for her latest release, the Icelandic artist has rolled up her sleeves, reached right into the core of the earth and pulled out a startling piece of work.

Coven is deadly. From the moment it pushes the sun behind a cloud and casts a murky shadow upon all its surroundings, you know it intends to grip you tightly in its spell. Iridescent vines entwine themselves around your arms, releasing their green sap as they twist and snap. Muddy earth - patchouli in disguise or the 'soil tincture' cited on the press release? - creeps up your legs, encasing you in its firmness. Shavings of tree bark descend onto your hair, sidling up to your body's intimacy with their sweaty woodiness. Fireworks of pepper erupt from the soil, mingling with the dewy moistness of the air. And somewhere, right next to you but forever out of sight, a meandering stream of luminosity traces a path towards the conclusion of this potent incantation.

My enthusiasm notwithstanding, there is, of course, every possibility that Coven is as derivative as Maack's other scents. As I've said before, one, lone critic isn't capable of keeping track of all fragrance releases, which means it's possible that work viewed as original by some folks is a re-hash of material which they happen not to have sniffed. There are certainly several aspects of Coven's personality which remind me of classic 80s masculines; more than once, its woody greenness cast my mind back to the original formulation of Cacharel Pour Homme. But I was happy to be convinced that its forbidding presentation of the natural world brings something novel to perfumery. What's more, it makes a powerful feminist statement, which comes as an unexpected pleasure at a time when so many social forces - not least, mainstream perfumery - are threatening to undermine the work of equality activists. As is well known, many so-called witches burnt at the stake were, in fact, wise women who had alarmed the male-dominated establishment with their individuality and were consequently deemed too threatening to be allowed to live. They became victims of their own bravery. Not unlike the work of Vero Kern, Coven embraces the complex femininity these figures represent: it combines fierce assertiveness with a fearless submission to all the most enticing excesses of sensuality. Coherent, engrossing and deliciously frightening, it's a hex to be worn with pride.

[Sadly, Maack chooses not to reveal who makes her scents - something of a growing trend in certain sectors of niche. I confess I'm very curious to discover the identity of the person behind this intriguing creation. Perhaps the passage of time will shed some light on the subject. Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Andrea Maack in 2014.]

Persolaise

10 comments:

  1. You made me very curious.
    I smelled in 2012 Dark, Silk, Coal, and, I think, Sharp (Smart (?) ).
    Silk was a total disappointment - I don't think it deserves the "niche" name.
    Dark was a little bit better - but still not extraordinary, good take on fruity, juicy rose, although not outstanding.
    The other 2 or 3 of them seemed to try hard to say something, but none of them amazed me.
    Gentiana

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    1. Gentiana, I was very taken with Coven. And it lasts forever too... like a really powerful spell ;-)

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  2. Hmm. I have a problem with Andrea Maack's perfumes. Not only did I dislike the fragrances, I also wasn't sure about her artistic approach. In a promotion video for the brand she explained that she sends her drawings to the perfumer who then creates one scent and sends it back to her. She takes whatever she is given without any further discours. No wonder she can't say much about the fragrances. I had seen that she had a new perfume out but was not at all tempted to even try it. Your review therefore leaves me with a dilemma: it sounds like I might like Coven a lot but I still don't like the brand...I will ponder about it.

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    1. Sabine, yes, there's no question that AM is an odd brand. But you know, I find the idea of taking a perfumer's first submission quite interesting. It suggests that Maack doesn't want to intervene in the perfume-creation process. But then this would be all the more reason for her to reveal the identity of her perfumers.

      Anyway, her past record notwithstanding, Coven is a very interesting piece of work.

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  3. - Or rather 'the perfumer' "rolled up their sleeves & pulled out", no !? ;) - I also find the fact AM insists on keeping the identity of her perfumers 'out of the loop' rather unfortunate, as I believe they even more so than her inspiring art are actually key. In fact it even rather irritates me, almost as tho' she's deliberately suppressing the actual creators lest they pull focus off her & her concept art (which IMO are mediocre at best divorced from the 'fumes). It just comes across as too 'ME ME ME' to really want to inspire supporting the brand for me, (sorry).

    - As for whether COVEN (nice name by the way) is indeed 'novel' or not I can't quite elucidate further on as I've yet to sniff it. However, on reading your description with it's mix of ivy-greeness & earthy-loam etc, it immediately brought to mind Oriza's excellent Chypre Mousse. Tho' CM's probably not quite as 80's 'butch' or woody, it would still otherwise quite nicely fit this depiction. - (It would actually be nice to read what you'd write for it instead.) :)

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    1. Julz, you're absolutely right :-) I considered changing the line about AM rolling up her sleeves, but then, in the end, I decided to go with the implication that she had an important role to play too, as Creative Director, if, indeed, that is what she considered herself to be.

      I'll have to keep my eyes open for the Oriza.

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  4. Sorry, please don't take my comment too seriously, I was just being waggish due to exactly how little I think/believe M's 'creative direction' actually stretches as far as the 'fumes themselves go. :) ... Otherwise what you wrote is perfectly fine as is !! (Besides, who am I too judge either way.)

    As for Oriza L.Legrand - yes please do. Am pretty certain you'll certainly appreciate discovering the line. And we'll be equally interested to read what you think of them. (Especially Chypre Mousse I think - tho' the whole line is interesting. - Well, if you don't mind a little 'powder' that is, which with a brand like Oriza is rather intrinsic so kinda inevitable.) ;)

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    1. Julz, please, there's no need to apologise :-) I promise I didn't take your comments the wrong way. And I did genuinely wonder if I should change that line. Perhaps I'll say I was being ironic if anyone asks.

      I look forward to discovering Oriza soon.

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  5. I really like Coven, but I must say it reminds me quite dramatically of my memory of L'Artisan Piment Brulant. I will have to do a side-by-side.

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    1. Ah, okay. I confess, I wasn't especially reminded of PB, but I'll revisit it when I have a minute. Thanks for the tip.

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