Complicated Shadows from 4160 Tuesdays is a perfume for the insomniac hours, late-night strolls wandering through the deserted streets of your hometown, familiar landmarks strangely distorted by the play of moonlight and shadow. The warm, velvety sandalwood whispers in contrast to the chilling “shade” note, evoking the breathless hush of liminal, in-between spaces. The iris and narcissus here are shrouded in mystery, their earthy floral murmurations laced with a tang of acrid irony, simmering existential angst below the surface of introspective ponderings. Veiled in a bitter vanilla mist, it’s the uncanny reverie, nocturnal glooms, and haunting landscapes of the dreamless, lost in the dark.

I don’t like comparing perfumes to each other, especially comparisons of something a niche or indie creator has made to something from one of the big houses…and I hear artists of all ilks, all the time, bemoaning how they hate being compared to other artists. So apologies in advance to my beloved artists amongst us here, but I know that sometimes comparisons to something you are already familiar with can be helpful in evaluating something new.

That said, my first impression of Complicated Shadows was one of cool, dusky elegance… and there’s a definite kinship with Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, that melancholic masterpiece shrouded in powdery twilight. However, Complicated Shadows sheds the heavy cloak of powder, revealing a more approachable, contemporary feel. L’Heure Bleue, as much as I want to love it, has never been my cup of tea. But Complicated Shadows? I could drink it by the bucketful. In the dark. In the middle of a deserted road. At the stroke of midnight.

I know better than this, but I purchased a bottle of Fantomas from Nasomatto without having sampled it first, and I’m surprised to say…I actually rather enjoy it? It reminds me of ELdO’s Ghost In The Shell, that bit of speculative lactonic peach, but I then realized what I was smelling in Fantomas was more along the lines of those Japanese milky honeydew melon hard candies. There’s also a bit of sterile, plastic-y musk and digitally-rendered powdery porcelain heliotrope, and the more I sniff my wrist, the more I am convinced that this creamy floral/vinyl musk is what the uncanny valley of a really expensive sex doll smells like. I’ve not smelled any sex dolls, either of the budget or the big-spender variety, but I have got a big imagination, and I’m pretty sure I know what I know. Anyway, I like it!

Parfums de Marly’s Pegasus Exclusif, and maybe I am extrapolating a bit from the brand’s copy, promises a ride on the back of a flying stallion, a journey into a realm of “masculine virility” and “exhilarating power.” But I think we need to temper our expectations; the description would have us believe this is the fragrant equivalent of a noble winged steed, all myth and muscle, soaring through the heavens, presumably being the fantastical equine embodiment of toxic masculinity. I’m not saying that I actually wanted any of that, but instead, what we are presented with is a pastel carousel pony, all heliotrope powdered sugar, and cracked porcelain. Now, there are some things I am not up to speed on here, which is to say that Pegasus Exclusif implies the existence of a Pegasus not-so-Exclusif, and if that is the case, I haven’t smelled that yet, and maybe that one is a dusty plastic marzipan macaron as well… so I am not sure how this one differs. And unlike other reviewers, I don’t get anything complex or dark or rich out of this perfume; the promised depth and complexity and woods and spices never materialize, leaving a one-dimensional sweetness and a sense of artificial whimsy that smells more like a My Little Pony collection than the epic journey of a majestic beast.

Citron Boboli from Le Jardin Retrouvé was a lovely, unexpected surprise. It’s such a light, refreshing, palliative scent; there’s hardly anything to it at all, and then the longer you sit with it, the more mellow marvels it conjures. On the hottest day of the summer, when the sun bakes the earth, and the air hangs humid, heavy, and shimmering, find a mason jar, glass smooth and etchings worn, passed down from your mother’s mother, to cradle a spell for a sweltering day. Beneath the skeletal shade of a midday tree, into this vessel layer lemon balm and blossom, a sprig of geranium, and a frilled citronella leaf–a soothing strata, herbal, citrusy, and green, a counterpoint to the relentless heat. Stream in a shiver of rainwater that has caught the reflection of the moon, and, finally, drop in as many cloves and peppercorns as loves you have lost, and smell their spiced warmth transmute into a strange, fizzing chill. Anoint your pulse, your throat, and your heart with the verdant brew, peer into its swirling emerald shadows, and let echo the words that cool the air and summon the soft, secret summer rain. This is what Citron Boboli is for me. And as a Floridian, I think this fragrance will be my go-to scorching summertime incantation of relief.

I got a sample of Flamingo from Blackcliff because thought this was for sure going to be my manic pixie pink pepper of demented glee that I have long been searching for. It’s a mangrove swamp’s heart of kaleidoscopic funhouse mirrors, twisted cypress knees splashed in the lurid, tart effervescent guava-grapefruit hues of technicolor twilight. Prickly pink pepper like a shard of shattered glass, like a frenzied clutch of little claws skitters and dissolves, and  a melancholic violet peeks through, its bruised purple mascara streaking through the murky water. Damp earthy tendrils of vetiver, musky ambrette, and loamy tobacco loom faintly but unsettlingly close to the surface. Flamingo is a warped sour bittersweetness unseen creatures chirping and croaking in the twilight–and I like it– but it’s more of a pink pepper whisper than the deranged fever dream intensity of pink pepper delirium I was hoping for.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas Soleil de Jeddah is a last-gasp sour and tang of sun-shriveled citrus, fusty desiccated green herbs and mummified mosses, ashy, arid leather, and the most spectral iris wilting in a disappearing patch of shade whose earthy roots are already giving up the ghost, crumbling away in the sandy dirt. The radiant aurora of an eclipse made pale, parched apparition via a dusty, occluded lens.

SYZYGY from bloodmilk x BPAL Syzygy is the undying dream of a dusky poppy in full bloom, not vibrant and fleeting, but perfectly preserved within a gilded tesserae of amber, its vivid essence suspended in slow, honeyed time. Crumble these petrified petals into a steaming glass of milk, the creamy warmth coaxing out their hidden secrets. The first breath of Syzygy is this: a haunting sweetness, both familiar and strange. It’s the memory of summer captured in a single, perfectly candied posy, not swaying in a sun-scattered field but tucked between the shadows amongst sun-baked stones. The rich, resinous beauty of the blossom endures, a timeless lure to the dark hum of ghostly bees forever adrift, doomed to perpetual yearning. This will be available later today (4/30) on the bloodmilk website.

Zoologist Moth is the cool glooms and musty melancholy of antique lace and silks tucked away with camphoraceus mothballs; there’s a smoky rose musk aspect, the spectral embers of a rose that lit itself on fire for love, or vengeance, or maybe both, and a bittersweet powdery element, like dried honey mixed with grave dust from a tomb. But the longer this wears, the more familiar it begins to smell, and I realize I am actually just wearing the musky vanilla and dusty florals of Hypnotic Poison, or alternately, the Bewitching Yasmine from Penhaligon, or Fleur Cachée from Anatol Lebreton, which to my nose, all smell like kindred spirits. And do I really need another perfume in that vein? And then I remember that I actually only own one bottle of those three scents, and that one doesn’t have the thing going for it that Moth does: ultimately, Moth smells like a twilight shadowplay of austere embraces, a haunting chorus of forgotten languages, and basically what you wear to convince the ghosts that you are in fact a ghost.

Koala from Zoologist is an aromatic-green-soapy incense-balsamic black tea-geranium sandalwood cologne with eucalyptus and pine. It’s dapper somehow, but the ironic dapper of a 25-year-old in 2013 with a handlebar mustache and a pork pie hat. It’s the refreshing, relaxing scent of a spa, but these dapper, ironic hipsters run the entire spa. And I don’t even know if I want to call it irony or absurdity or even farcical, but after a while, it doubles back on itself, and it’s almost painfully earnest, it’s got a genuine “love is real, and I was pounded in the butt by my sentient spa experience” Chuck Tingle title vibe. I don’t know what that means. I’m all over the place for what is probably a very approachable and wearable perfume. That’s kind of wild, that I have no problem describing the weirdies, but the normies are the ones that give me pause. Anyway, I think this is both a sincere and sardonic eucalyptus scent. That’s my final word on it.

Ôponé from Diptyque (I think this one is hard to find, but you can find overpriced bottles on resale sites) is a fragrance so revolting you’d think someone was joking that it couldn’t possibly be real. But it is real, and I have a sample of it. It’s a vile cocktail of the following: a freshly-opened bottle of goopy, boozy-but-not-nearly-enough booze bitter berry Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough and Chest Congestion (possibly the one with Dextromethorphan and Guaifenesin), the most repellent, unpalatable artificial fruity-sour energy drink on the shelf with the most outrageously obnoxious packaging, the one so disgusting and foul that even the people you think might be into it would never buy, and the saddest long-stemmed fake rose wrapped in dusty crinkly plastic at the gas station. Nobody wants any part of this. Throw it in the trash immediately.

Bonus material! I can’t believe I have never shared this, but the closest I have ever come to hearing/seeing the perfume reviews I want to see in the world is this SNL sketch with Benedict Cumberbatch. They are not talking about perfume, but I think you will get what I mean…

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Necrotelicom says

I love the Chuck Tingle comparison - he *is* refreshingly earnest, & might also genuinely appreciate being pounded in the butt by a sentient spa experience 😂

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