Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review: PROFUMUM Vanitas

I am all for irony. Usually. Only, the execution of it is tricky. Too much subtlety and it fails to register. Not enough and it's clunky -- which tends to defeat the purpose of irony. Or turn it into contradiction.

So, which is it, to name a sweet vanilla perfume 'Vanitas'? I really don't know.

As a scent, it is a half-half of sweets and flowers. It reads to me as soft cotton candy, light caramel, and powdered vanilla on one side; and lily and orange blossom on the other. The white florals are non-indolic and mild, creamy but not buttery, and grow stronger on my skin until they are balanced equally against the gourmands, with a drop of the amber-myrrh-sandalwood Profumumade under it all. And much, much later, that drop turns into a soft, luminous glow. Maybe this is the 'sunset' that the copy [NB this link to Profumum's website contains audio] mentions. I think I like this part best but it's very faint and on me Vanitas is about the candy-and-flowers.

If I enjoyed floral vanillas more, I think I would really really like this, but even for me, it's quite likable and wearable.
Reminds me a bit of a sweeter Serge Lutens Un Lys. Sweet without the toothache; floral without the headache. Pretty, sun-warmed, uncomplicated, loquacious, flips her hair a lot. Though, Candy says, more nice than jailbait -- it's not that interesting.

Also, it's not a stunner. Vanitas is no step toward an undiscover'd country, but rather, a competent (if not very ambitious) re-tread of the genre, with characteristic slimline-chic. But then, I don't think Profumum is interested in stunners anyway. They seem pretty committed to derivation and restraint.

Speaking of which... As a scent, Vanitas seems so statement-less, normal, and unforeboding, with nary a wilting petal, let alone the stench of decay, that I admit I found myself puzzling over whether the name might mean something other than the vanitas. Yet it can't simply mean 'vanity' (or any other thing) with absolutely no consciousness of vanitas -- that would be either incredibly naive or willful, neither of which seems especially Profumum. So, to credit them with too much or too little subtlety?

That is the question.

And now for some Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians!

No online videos/audios of the Element of Light album seem to be available and no idea how to post a clip from my copy. Which is too bad -- Hitchcock's deadpan is inimitable and renders this ballad characteristically droll. But at least here are the lyrics.


Robyn Hitchcock

"Will you dance with me, Lady Waters?"
And a bony hand plucked her gown.
"Will you dance with me?" said the Hooded One.
"For the plague has reached this town."

"No, I'll never dance," says Lady Waters,
"For I see that your name is Death."
And beneath her mask she was sweating
At the Hooded One's fetid breath.

"Will you dance with me, Lady Waters?
For the fire dies in your grate.
And your guests have gone and your lord's asleep.
And the plague has reached your estate."

"Then I'll dance with you," says Lady Waters,
"For the stars grow pale in the dawn.
But I must first get my tiara,
For I left it out on the lawn."

"Oh and if you get your tiara,"
And his eyes like coals, they did burn.
"You must give me all and taste my breath
On the moment that you return."

"Very well," she said from behind her mask,
"You must take from me what is mine.
I'll return to you and submit to you."
And the Hooded One, he said, "Fine."

She came back to him and took off her mask.
And the Hooded One, he recoiled.
What he thought was sweat on her face and hands,
It turned out to be boils.

"You must take from me all I have," she said.
"You must take it all with good grace.
For I have the plague on my body
And I have the plague on my face."

Oh the Hooded One took her house and her lands.
He took every fork, every knife.
And he took the plague and he left her there,
Without anything but her life.

Happy New Year :)

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