Those of you who read my The Sunday Magazine columns know how much I enjoyed the recent Twin Peaks: The Return. One of the reasons was giving an auteur like David Lynch the freedom to realize exactly the vision he had. It wasn’t for everyone. It was meant to challenge assumptions. It wasn’t ever meant to make you comfortable and there was no happy ending, but it was an earned ending. Mr. Lynch was also responsible for the sound editing and throughout the 18 episodes electricity hummed through high-tension wires, crackled and popped, and provided otherworldly illumination. It was perhaps the most consistent motif within the show.
Within days of the final episode I received my sample of D.S. & Durga Vio-Volta. With everything still swirling in my mind here was a perfume which could have leapt off the screen as David Seth Moltz creates an uncomfortable electric fragrance.
David Seth Moltz
Vio-Volta is the latest in a series of new releases which feel like modern art. This is also an auteur’s vision which means it is not a perfume for everyone. I had people I work with on the days I was wearing it ask me “what the hell are you wearing?”. I also found it to be a bit wearying to wear over a full day. I have spent more time with it in shorter time periods without fatigue. All of that as prelude Vio-Volta is every bit as good as Twin Peaks: The Return was.
Mr. Moltz claims Vio-Volta was him fooling around with new ingredients to evoke something purple. The two ingredients which are the keynotes are Violis which He describes as a “really weird candy rhubarb” and Amber Xtreme.
The opening is that odd version of rhubarb from Violis. There is an oddly metallic vibe which runs throughout the crystalline vegetal rhubarb. It reminded me of chewing on tin foil. Early on it is sort of fun then it begins to hurt. Before the hurt gets to be too much the Amber Xtreme crashes over the top with a woody tsunami. Once the Violis pops back to the surface it is joined by some less artificial ingredients as incense and patchouli become proverbial life preservers to cling to. Over time the violet nature of Violis become more prominent but that crackle of electricity thrums underneath all of it.
Vio-Volta has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage. Besides being confrontational it lasts forever and everyone around you will smell it.
It seems I have been writing this a lot recently but perfume like Vio-Volta is something that can only come from our independent perfume community. You might hate it. you might love it, you might appreciate it, you might admire it; but you should try it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by D.S. & Durga.
Tuberose is a wild beast of a fragrance ingredient. It can be so untamed with its overwhelming nature that many perfumers must go to great lengths to rein it in so it can be used without becoming too much. There is another technique in direct opposition to trying to tame it; jump on its back and try to ride it. That is what the new D.S. & Durga Durga does.
You might think the perfume is named after the nickname perfumer David Seth Moltz has given to his wife Kavi Moltz and which makes up the brand name with his first two initials. It turns out that this is instead more literal as they design a fragrance inspired by the Hindu Goddess Durga. She is a multi-limbed warrior goddess depicted riding on the back of a tiger brandishing a weapon form each of her multiple hands. Her keynote victory is over the Buffalo Demon. How this translates to the perfume bearing her name is that Mr. Moltz uses two fabulous sources of tuberose to which he piles on with most of the opulent floral materials in perfumery.
David Seth Moltz and Kavi Moltz
Mr. Moltz uses green tuberose as his opening note. Over the last couple of years, I have enjoyed seeing what different perfumers do with this version of tuberose where there is a more prominent green quality as well as making the camphoraceous heart of tuberose also stand out. The choice he makes to modulate this is a melon note in all its intense fruitiness. It is not an intuitive choice but it is one which I really took to and this is from someone who can find melon irritating. From here Mr. Moltz starts adding one floral note after the other. It starts with chrysanthemum freshening things up. Orange blossom takes the freshness and brings it back to white flower territory. A high percentage irone orris butter runs the danger of perhaps gilding the tuberose but it doesn’t. Ylang-ylang turns this creamy and lush. Then when most perfumers would try and cage the tiger Mr. Moltz drenches the base in tuberose absolute paired with jasmine sambac. This is a basso profundo finish as these two huge white flowers strut their indolic nature. Mr. Moltz accentuates the skanky quality with musk added in for that purpose.
Durga has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Outside of the melon, which works here, this is a collection of most of my favorite floral motes. Mr. Moltz does an impressive job at keeping all of this roaring at full speed but never flying off a cliff. If you are a fan of the white flower powerhouse perfumes Durga is a contemporary interpretation which succeeds by being unafraid to allow the tiger that is tuberose the opportunity to range freely.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.
As a boy we had a weekend place at the end of Key Largo. It was where my love of the ocean was kindled as I would spend days swimming in it; water skiing on top of it; and diving deep beneath it. After a day of being out on the water I would go spend the evening out on the dock with my transistor radio. Pointing the antenna across the Gulf of Mexico I would cautiously turn the AM dial searching for a signal. The radio was held close to one ear as my fingers feathered the controls until a voice would leap out of the speakers. I was connected to another part of the country. For as long as the signal lasted I got a peek into another city. Through those nights on the dock I listened to the goings on in Corpus Christi and Galveston, TX; Biloxi, MS; New Orleans, LA and courtesy of their huge signal St Louis, MO’s KMOX. As the radio would heat up there was a pleasant smell of hot metal and electronics which was surrounded by the smell of the night blooming flowers and the ocean lapping the pilings under the dock. I hadn’t thought of those nights in a long time until I received my samples of the newest D.S. & Durga perfumes. Radio Bombay reminded me of the smell of that transistor radio. Rose Atlantic brought me back to those flower-filled nights above the ocean.
David Seth Moltz and Kavi Ahuja Moltz
David Seth Moltz describes Radio Bombay as a “deconstructed sandalwood”. It is a sandalwood which is decayed like those faraway signals I was listening for into something less than its ideal self. It is an interesting idea when a perfumer chooses to find notes which chip away at the familiar in a way so that other aspects become more prominent.
Right in the very early moments of Radio Bombay you get the most pristine version of sandalwood. Over the next few hours that sandalwood will be changed by the other notes. Early on it is competing with a balsamic mixture pushing down the sweeter, creamier aspects in favor of the sharply woody ones. Next comes this metallic accord which Mr. Moltz calls copper but I would describe as warm undefined metal. It is that moment when my radio got very warm to my touch. Boronia adds a bit of the heated electronic vibe while also chiseling away at the sandalwood a little more. Iris powders things while cedar tries to reclaim the woodiness. At the very end the signal is lost into the ether until the next time I tune in.
Rose Atlantic is those moments in the night when I would look deep into the black water only to have the flowers scenting the air to ground me. Mr. Moltz uses some wonderful ingenuity in constructing his accord to represent the Atlantic. Many of the typical components are here but one, muscone, seals the deal. He has added enough that it provides that deep dark water accord the weight it deserves. On top of that water floats linden leaves, rose, lemon, and grass. It is an airy floral entwined with the green of the grass and linden leaves. A bit of moss later on provides a final thread of green. After the radio was shut off I would still sit on the dock enjoying the signal right in front of me; until the next night.
Radio Bombay has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage. Rose Atlantic has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Along with these two scents there was a third White Peacock Lily which is also quite good. All of these were meant to debut the new packaging designed by Kavi Ahuja Moltz.
I know someone will ask if I layered the two to see if I could create a personal “Key Largo Signal”. I did and it didn’t work that well, there was a lot of static. As I learned so long ago once you find a clear signal stick with it for as long as it lasts. Radio Bombay and Rose Atlantic are rich signals to find while searching in the night.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DS & Durga.
When I was at Pitti David Seth Moltz the perfumer behind D.S. & Durga handed me a preview of the next release. As we were spraying it on strips he told me the name was Debaser. There are times that something as simple as a name can tell you when two people share some common ground. I looked quizzically at him and said, “Is it named after….” Before I could complete the words Mr. Moltz finished for me, “Yeah, it’s named after The Pixies song.” Now there are many things which might inspire a perfume but this particular song would not be high up on anyone’s list, except Mr. Moltz’s.
David Seth Moltz
The Pixies were part of that late 1980’s wave of alternative rock bands. What set them apart were the lyrics of singer/guitarist Black Francis. The band covered a myriad of subjects but for the song “Debaser” Mr. Francis chose a particularly obscure bit of surrealism to sing about, the film Un Chien Andalou. That film was co-directed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. Over the running time of 21 minutes each chapter is a tableau separated by time-based title cards, like “sixteen years ago”. There is much to chew on for any fan of surrealism. The one thing most everyone speaks about is the opening scene which opens on a title card of “once upon a time”. In it a man sharpens a razor walks over to a woman holds her eye open and approaches her eyeball with a razor. After a cut to clouds moving across the moon in the night sky it returns to an eyeball being slit, not the woman’s but that of a dead calf. Mr. Francis was also fascinated by this imagery and one of the verses in the song is this:
Got me a movie
Ha ha ha ho
Slicing up eyeballs
Ha ha ha ho
He goes on to sing, “I am Un Chien Andalusia” purposefully mangling the name. As I said not the kind of stuff you would look for to make a perfume. Mr. Moltz is inspired nonetheless as he turns out an alternative version of a fig-based summer scent.
Simone Mareuil and a razor from "Un Chien Andalou"
Debaser opens on a very Morticia Addams pruning roses and placing the thorny stems back into vases vibe. Mr. Moltz plays with the idea of what is left of a fruity beginning if you remove the fruit. A green leafy accord and a pear stem accord are where things start. There are hints of what is growing but they have been excised from the scent via an olfactory straight razor. The heart starts to move into something more relatable as a rich fig arises through the stemmy top notes. Just as it seems this might normalize a veritable torrent of coconut milk arrives and swamps the fig. Just as I start to process that, iris appears. This is a weirdly satisfying, completely discordant, heart. These notes collide and recede for hours while wearing Debaser. It is definitely one of the more interesting heart note combinations I’ve tried so far this year. Debaser stays at this point for quite a while before taking a turn toward a dry woody finish that is almost too normal compared to what has come earlier.
Debaser has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Debaser is a fragrance which revels in its unusualness. I also think Mr. Moltz had a ton of fun composing this combining all of the competing elements into a perfume. This succeeds so well I think it is the best perfume in the entire D.S. & Durga line. I know I’ve emphasized the point that it is a bit weird. Debaser is different but if you are looking for a fig perfume which has a sly intelligence at play look no further than Debaser.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by D.S. & Durga.
Brooklyn-based Independent perfume brand D.S. & Durga branched out in 2013 by producing the HYLNDS collection. The first four fragrances were evocations of the Highlands myths and folklore. The fifth release Foxglove continues that tradition as it is focused on the man who was considered the greatest poet of Ireland, Oisin. Perfumer David Seth Moltz was inspired by a visit to the gravesite. He says, “When I walked up to Oisin’s grave, I found one foxglove flower facing it 20 feet from the site. It was if Nieve was sitting watch over her lost love.”
One of the characteristics of the HYLNDS collection of perfumes is they all have a distinctive sense of place within their composition. When I smell all of these fragrances I feel very much aware of the inspiration surrounding me. Foxglove does a fantastic job of fusing the legend of Oisin with the idea of standing near his grave on a damp moor with a single bloom in front of you. Mr. Moltz has chosen a slightly vegetal citrus top. Champaca absolute centers the heart. Leather combined with immortelle makes up the base. It is a fragrance of open green spaces.
David Seth Moltz
Mr. Moltz uses citron peel, rosewood, and Queen Anne’s lace as his opening trio. One should always remember that Queen Anne’s lace is a member of the carrot family and as such while floral it also carries a significant vegetal quality. The citron is well-chosen contrast for that with the rosewood adding gentle woody aspects underneath it all. Champaca rises to the foreground next and it is buttressed with orris and neroli. The two supporting notes help the champaca from being overwhelming as they temper the more boisterous qualities of the absolute. We are standing near a grave and should show some respect. The base is my favorite part of Foxglove as Mr. Moltz starts with a smooth leather. This is the leather of a saddle ridden upon often, well-oiled, and taken care of. The leather accord has a wonderfully broken in feeling to it. The choice of immortelle is also a great decision and it blends well with the leather accord. The final two ingredients in the base are ambergris and peach. These shouldn’t be as good with the leather and immortelle as they are. Together this carries a hint of the sea, the dampness of the highlands, and the leather of a warrior poet. This last phase of Foxglove is what I look forward to whenever I wear it.
Foxglove has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really believe this HYLNDS collection is the best most cohesive set of fragrances D.S. & Durga has produced. I am not sure if Mr. Moltz is just especially inspired by the subject matter or if this is just the evolution of his skills as an independent perfumer. Foxglove is my favorite of the five and it is because of that leather and immortelle base as it conjures up its location as well as a perfume possibly can.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by D.S. & Durga.