Etat Libre d’Orange The Ghost in the Shell, fragrance review first published in Cafleurebon
“-So life is like fruit growing on the end of the branches..?
-… it’s like fruit.”
― Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the shell
To say that I have been anxiously waiting to smell this is an understatement of epic proportions, both as an Etat Libre d’Orange long-time admirer and science fiction lover. The Ghost in the Shell is inspired by Dan Simmon’s Hyperion books – an epic saga of religious and philosophical fiction that created one of the most intricate, deep, and complex imaginary universes. Etat Libre d’Orange throws in the mix the connection to Shirow Masamune’s visual wizardry and weaves a fully immersive experience: one unsettlingly spot-on visual ad, a very tactile bottle, and a perfume that will surely be “the talk of the (cyber) town” this autumn.
Let’s turn to Etienne de Swardt for the background on how the perfume’s idea came into existence: “It is a night of pale moonlight, a night toward the end of the 20th century, a night when the old world is ending and the new one is beginning. It is a night when one trembles to boldly lower the sacred cross against the heart, to aid in the passage to fatherhood. So, as a crucifix, that night I pick up Hyperion, a novel by Dan Simmons(..) I read the future of man, the celebration of transhumanism and the qualitative leap of humanity enhanced by machine. I have rarely loved a book this much, I have rarely loved a thinker this much. I read that night what a man thought he saw in the tombs of time. I am a lover of words in the service of materials when they come together to make poetry in the bottom of our bottles; thus, a few years ago, I bring up the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to one of the last living vestiges of the triumphant 20th century, and I ask him: – “Then Teilhard de Chardin, precursor of genius?” A look, a silence and for the answer four unexpected words, four words whispered by my father: “GHOST IN THE SHELL”. This is the act of birth that makes the spirit of perfume. The rest is poetry to live on the skin. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died in 1955, but his spirit continues to travel. This fragrance extends it through an alliance with the Japanese artist Shirow Masamune to transcend the spirit of Earth.” *read the entire press release here
Looking back at ELDO’s line-up, I will go on a limb and affirm that perfume has of the most personal messages left in a bottle (pun intended) by the creator of the brand. Drawing an arc in time from the night he became a father to his own father’s words, an idea coming full circle through the years, turning the lens to the deeper discussion about human legacy, our mission, and the answers that can be found within ourselves. We are told in the press release: ”This perfume is the future. It comes to us from the 20th century” maybe as an invitation to meditate on the non-linearity of time. It also opens up a Pandora box filled with uncharted emotions, where we are left with a special kind of wide-eyed nostalgia riddled with hope, embedded in the source code of a special kind of retro-futurism. In the never-ending dance of the deus ex machina morphing into the ghost in the machine, let us unravel its story:
Stage 1: cryogenic fruits
We are embarked on Yggdrasill, the templar tree-spaceship that flows between worlds. Zoom into an upper branch, into the sleeper’s quarter where the cryogenic pod door has just opened, and high-altitude ozonated air rolls in white wafts from the glass ceiling. Head pounding from that very specific type of headache and dizzy lightheadedness that accompanies every resurrection – ”la petite mort”, as you tongue-in-cheek refer to the awakenings from the cryogenic fugue, you unpeel the last sensor tape that clings to your leg and step out.
Remembering your training, you begin the sensory recalibration procedure. Standing before the large windows that have now started to project familiar images from pre-Hegira Earth, you take rhythmic breathes of the treated air that fills in the room, in perfect sync with the images that start rolling on the screens. Wuthering heights, high on the cliffs above the waves, air filled with the green and salty aroma of the cold sea, you clench your jaw and feel the metallic aftertaste of thunders in your mouth. The tension dissipates, waves turn to ripples, muscles unwind, the grey skies turn to unbearable light blue, fluffy white scattered clouds, the airy and elevated wafts of alpine heights caressing the inside of your nostrils. Memories from eons ago come in waves, interfering with reality, like a swarm of technicolor static flies that hover in the dense air, to form one specific, immersive and tactile memory: taking out a green bar of soap from its metal tin and washing your hands in the cold mountain stream, slowly, with ritualistic gestures, before making the sign of the cross with your hands.
Recalibration ritual completed now, it’s time to take your vitamins. You take the glass jar, filled with the iridescent yellow-green juice, and gulp down the potion that sublimated a cornucopia of old-Earth fruits, merged into one multisensorial experience: the green peel of an apple, crisp and tart, a juicy mouthwatering pear, the soft creaminess of a ripe banana and the bitter-sour yuzu, sliding between your tastebuds between zesty citric and deep tangy richness.
Mood: alive, tangy, electrified, metallic fruits, ozonic
Credits: Aqual™, Yuzu HE, Hexyl Acetate
Stage II Manga flowers:
Setting: a pastel-colorized manga page, depicting a greenhouse filled with flowers. Eyes jumping from frame to frame, trying to understand the timeline of the action in the collage. Sensory enhancement headset on, zoom into the drawn world, to unlock its secrets. A huge pile of plastic cables, spawn between the frames, sit in the sun, warming up and slowly releasing their sweet artificial smell in the greenhouse air. Trying to pull them together, to see where they lead, like some twisted version of Ariadne’s thread, the garden hose edition, you start to have a new bout of flashback glitches. Your hands round up in the air in the automated gesture of grabbing the ghost of an ancient steering wheel. You close your eyes and inhale the familiar scent, trying to calm down. That was the summer of 1997AC, Earth life memory slot nr 7853, your first new car, scorching heat of the summer, laughing with painful surprise when you touched the hot wheel of your green Peugeot 206, parked in the sun for too long. The memory is condensed and served in your tastebuds and nose in one burst: sweet, plastic, hot, and dense.
Wondering if it’s just another fake memory, you breathe in the intoxicating scent of jasmine -fresh, fruity, and solar, that rises from the thousand floral heads, petals multiplied to infinity in the greenhouse mirrored walls. From the outside, you feel the light of a different kind of sun, gleaming and bouncing back, reflecting in a pastel-powder kaleidoscope with blurry edges. You are NOT in Kansas anymore, you whisper to yourself while looking at the convoluted ways in which the flowers’ branches are hugging the metallic structures, drawing strange labyrinthic patterns. The rhythmic sound of a robotic arm becomes more clear and loud as you approach the exit. “Fear sometimes tastes like sucking on a 9-volt battery, remember kiddo?” said the muffled voice in your head. In the corner, freshly out of the printing liquid, the new human shell is shedding its milky opaque outer layer to reveal the pink fruit of the flesh. It’s been a while since you took female form, you think before transferring into your new flesh vehicle.
Mood: Light, aldehydic, airy florals, metallics, sweet warm plastic, soft green, and fuzzy-edged white florals
Credits: Jasmin absolute, Mugane™ Milky Skin Accord
Stage III – Anime rain
The city has been drowning in the never-ending calm rain, for what would seem like an eternity. The vegetation slowly took over the urban landscape, turning the city into a futuristic radiation-free version of a crowded Pripyat, neon lights included. If superimposed on the song playing in the background of the montage sequence from Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film, “Ghost in the Shell” we would also have a scented map of a city, here is where things would perfectly align: mossy, earthy, and woodsy, merging in the artifacts of an old, dying world with the promise of the new one, still amidst its painful prolonged birth.
We have the smell of an urbanized mossy damp forest floor, with roots entwined beneath the glistening wet cracked pavement of the city. A city like a lived-in skin, one life merging into the next, blurring and erasing the edges of the individual to the hum of the sentient human bee-hive. Wafts from restaurants rolling into the streets, spicy and smoky, bakery windows filled with powdered delights and vanillic offerings, the street vendor’s carts silently rolling on the sidewalk, newspaper cones filled with roasted peanuts. Some version of enhanced emotional thermooptic camouflage, to be used on yourself, Matryoshka.
Mood: I am home-but-I-am-homesick: quiet, woody, whispered, nostalgic, relaxing, comforting
Credits: Moss Accord, Vinyl Gaiacol (MANE Biotech), Orcanox™ (moss, vanilla, orcanox)
Contrary to the expectations, Ghost in the shell is not a what you would call (read the following lines with fingers in the air quoting stiff upper lip ) “difficult artistic experiment” with “high shock value”. It is surprisingly easy to wear, comfortable, and luminous. A “strong but silent” type of sidekick, wafting close to skin, hugging the curves of the uncanny valley of “identically natural” fruits and flowers, The Ghost in the shell delivers an airy experience that effortlessly slides from mineral to fruity, and from floral to mossy. With the ease and fluid movements of an olfactive exoskeleton, build to reduces the effects of gravity, but with enough of an androgynous android wink to keep things interesting and subversive, The Ghost in the shell is a weird place of overlap in a Ven Diagram where fragrance, manga, anime and SF geeks will unite (to agree or disagree).
Also read about: Rien
A mixture of biotech and natural materials: Aqual™ Yuzu HE, Hexyl Acetate (MANE Biotech); Jasmin absolute, Mugane™, Milky Skin Accord; Moss Accord, Vinyl Gaiacol (MANE Biotech), Orcanox™
Disclosure: Bottle kindly provided by Etat Libre d’Orange opinions are my own