Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Dreams are made of this: Annick Goutal Songes review

Songes having a nice little lie down
I spent large tracts of the Easter Weekend asleep. There were no family gatherings featuring rack of lamb, Simnel cake, or egg hunts in the garden; no invigorating walks in bluebell woods, pub meals, or even chocolate binges - though I had a full complement of Lindt bunnies in the house, so goodness knows the opportunity was there. I did demolish a tottering heap of ironing, finally read papers from as far back as last Tuesday week, and appeal a parking ticket on behalf of an elderly friend, so the holiday was not wholly without accomplishment. But mostly I slept - and dreamt - and felt a curious yet languorous sense of disconnection from the world, which I sense is an inevitable part of the 'single household condition' (to come over all Camusian for a moment).

Token Easter concession of hot cross bun, plus mini-tsunduko of Ian McEwans

In one of the dreams, The Monochrome Set (my recent travels with whom were evidently still fresh in my mind!) were supposed to be playing a late night gig outside a ruined castle on top of a mountain. The craggy topography was positively Transylvanian in appearance, belying the Tewkesbury postcode on the band's itinerary sheet. The 'get in' - or 'get up', rather, in view of the vertiginous terrain - was hard going, on slippery ground and along unlit paths. I am not sure the band ever made it to the summit - I was onto the next dream by then anyway, about a defective glide rail in the cupboard under my cooker.

Val in the garden of the Grand Hotel Cosmopolis

I have waited till this post to mention it, but along with Naja, there is one other scent that is inextricably bound up with meeting Val and Chris in Augsburg. For on the Sunday I wore a sample of Songes edt - the conscious creation of happy associations with perfumes being a thing I increasingly do, rather than noticing after the fact that random fragrance X (not to be confused with the online retailer of the same name ;) ) happens to remind you of good time Y. In my book, deliberately orchestrating scent memories is just a logical extension of outfit planning, and it worked like a charm with Songes. So much so that on my return to England I felt I had to own it, notwithstanding the substantial size of my existing perfume collection!

Notes: frangipani, tiare, jasmine, incense, vanilla, copahu balm, pepper, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, styrax

I have been wearing Songes a lot in the last two weeks. During a recent visit, my brother asked me what my favourite perfume was, which I obviously batted off as a preposterous question to put to a diehard fumehead. ;)  Yet the more thought I have given it since, the more I have come round to the possibility of only having TWO perfumes, and of Songes being one of them...! For while there is amber and styrax in the base, which one could consider 'winter perfume' notes, the composition overall sits squarely in the 'sultry tropical floral' category, which is not exactly the genre for which one reaches on a dreich and drizzling day in February. That said, I would not restrict Songes to high summer and exotic holiday locations, and I don't say that just because we don't really have a summer here and I don't go anywhere remotely exotic. Okay, not the beachy, Bounty bar kind of exotic, say. Some might say a residential container park in Stuttgart is a bit 'outside the box' as destinations go. Or 'inside the box', even. Sorry, I digress...but yes, I reckon Songes also works nicely in spring: like a cuckoo pint it is buttressed by a curling sheath of greenery - a compelling blend of vetiver and what I can best describe as 'a jasmine note in tuberose's clothing', most notably in the opening. For I detect a dewy, faintly medicinal** otherworldliness that reminds me of Carnal Flower, which I also see as having wider seasonal currency than its name might suggest.

**(or more exactly, a scent that is somewhere between grass, Germolene, menthol, and bubblegum, and I really do mean that in the best possible way)

Oops, we are tired again!

As Songes wears on, the narcotic and sensual bouquet of frangipani, tiare and ylang-ylang starts to bloom on a pneumatic bed of vanilla spiked with just enough pepper and incense to keep things from ever drifting into apocalyptic Loulou territory. Rather, this is a sort of 'sexed - and slightly weirded - up' La Chasse aux Papillons crossed with Ormonde Jayne Frangipani, featuring echoes of Amaranthine's creamily indolic milk pudding. There is an air of innocence about Songes, but if you were to tear away the soft focus veil like a tangle of so much diaphanous clothing, you would eventually uncover its carnal core. You might well have got fed up with the tangle wrangling long before, mind! If Songes were a film it would perhaps be a more grown up version of Bilitis, that stylish and moody 'coming of age' flick, of which my memory, like the cinematography, is hazy, but as a geeky and thoroughly unracy teenager I do remember it as an aspirationally risque cult classic. Even the theme tune is seductively soporific, in a slightly annoying synthesised Vangelis kind of a way! ;)

The most respectable still I could find! Source: Abe Books

Actually, park Bilitis with its youthful lesbian overtones - seductively soporific is really where it's at in a nutshell. Songes could be the signature scent of the Lotos-Eaters (aka the gloriously named 'lotophagi' or 'lotophages') as they munched on their lotus fruits and flowers, causing them to 'sleep in peaceful apathy'. Here is an extract from the eponymous poem by Tennyson:

"Eating the Lotos day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
To muse and brood and live again in memory"

Source: Wikipedia

And that brings me back to another aspect of my association with Songes: if Bilitis is its gawky and not quite suitable film equivalent, 'On My Balcony' from the band's Platinum Coils album, would be Songes in a song to a 't' - or an 's'! The track takes as its theme singer Bid's stay in hospital, recovering from surgery following a brain aneurysm:

"Through the perfume of sweet velvet sleep
I glide into the afternoon"

As I mention in this early tour post, when quizzed about the lyric, Bid explained that his choice of the word 'perfume' was quite arbitrary, and he probably just liked the way the word sounded. Even so, the woozy cadence of the lines nicely evokes a state of dreamy torpor, scented or otherwise. There is about a 30 second clip here, which gives you an idea of the track's languid charm - not unlike early Genesis indeed.

And here are a couple of reviews, which serve to confirm me in my linkage of Songes to song!

"The tempo slows in 'On My Balcony', a ballad that feels like drifting down a tributary of oblivion." - From a High Horse

"One is lifted up to the gentle heights of On My Balcony, where, weightless, surrounded by a golden luminous haze, the concerns of the world float far below." - God is in the TV

And as it happens, at that eclectic asylum seekers' hostel-cum-hotel that was our base in Augsburg, my room had its own balcony! As did most of them to be fair, haha. Okay, and not strictly my own balcony - more like my own section of a communal balcony that ran the whole width of the building. But the decor of all the rooms - which were individually designed by an assortment of avant-garde artists - was very Lotos-Eaterish, come to think of it, in the sense of minimalist and surreal, and conducive to a state of peaceful apathy! Good job I managed to stir myself in time to meet Val on the Saturday night - you could easily sleep your stay away, which would be rather a waste of a visit to such a picturesque spot, though you would feel jolly rested at the end of it.

I will close this free association 'spacy review oddity' with some photos of the other rooms I find most Songes-like at the Grand Hotel Cosmopolis, starting with the one I was meant to have, Grande Dame. (All photos sourced from the hotel website.)

Things start to get more diaphanous with Innen / Aussen:

My own room, 4 null 5, also gives good gauze:

Before taking a fluffy turn with Zauberwald (note also fluffy bedknob):

And here is Maskerade des Lebens - complete with balcony and trippy mural:

So there you have it - Songes edt, the scent of an asylum seekers hostel / hotel, a fabulous fumehead meet up, a hospital in Tooting, a dodgy 70s film, and those legendary lolling sybarites, the Lotos-Eaters:

"To muse and brood and live again in memory"

Are you asleep yet...? ;)


  1. I left a comment. Seems to have been eaten. Basically it said I LOVE Songes.
    Portia xxx

    1. Oh Portia, I am sorry for your lost comment, and thanks for having another go. Blogger is a one in that regard.

      Glad to know another Songes fan. I'd be curious to try the edp version now, which some people prefer, though I have heard tell it is scarily heady? xxx

  2. Hi Vanessa on some days Songes is one of my two favourites as well! I have both EdP and EdT, EdP has a bit more depth but I love them both. Let me know if I can send you a sample of the EdP Hamamelis

    1. Hi Hamamelis,

      Oh, Songes seems to be getting a lot of love, also over on Facebook. Thanks very much for your kind offer to send me a sample of the edp. I am massively curious to try it, I must be honest - if you could drop me a line on flittersniffer at gmail dot com I will gladly send you my contact details, and thanks again!

  3. I really need to try Songes again. I tried it very early on in my sniffing career and it was thinner than I expected, so I discounted it. I don't trust my nose from some 7 years ago though.

    V, I think it's amazing that you haven't bought a full bottle for a few years! No need to feel guilty for this great value, great quality purchase then. Especially as you could imagine it being one of only two perfumes if you were forced to stick to such a miserly number.
    I hope you feel better for that much needed Easter catch-up on rest. I know what you mean about "single household condition". It's a weird feeling of disconnection which can slip into awful mournfulness if I'm not careful.

    1. Hi Tara,

      The edt is quite thin, I would say, but is plenty heady enough for me all the same. I suspect it 'thickens up' over time too.

      I am glad you don't think my purchase record is too profligate! I have also bought a few decants and purse spray sizes of things in that time...

      Hopefully I won't be forced to stick to such a miserly number, but Songes has the benefit of being green and floral and sultry. I would put Zelda in the same camp in fact - it could work as a multi-tasking desert island 'everything but winter' scent, come to think of it. Its overall vibe is greener though, and I prefer the more pronounced florals of Songes.

      I do feel very rested, thank you, and have finally got stuck into the bunnies, though I held out till Easter Wednesday!

  4. Isn't it lovely when a perfume is just so perfect you could fall into it like a feather bed? Sounds as if Songes was this experience for you. Also calming narcotic frags are marvelous because they slow down a day a little :-)

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      Yes, that's exactly right! It was a languid pace in a bottle. Which I have tried to convey visually by so many bits of net curtains...;)

  5. Hey V! I also have to try Songes again because I found it dull. But it's interesting how noses work. I have been wearing out my decant of Tea for Two wichcI really like now but also thought was boring four years ago or whenever I got that decant. And what a deal you got!!! xox

    1. Hey Carol!

      Oh no, dull? That's too bad, but as you say, everyone's nose is different, and maybe you will come round to it one day as you did with Tea for Two. xx

  6. I don't think ? have tried Songes. A mistake as it sounds. Well, I'm in Paris today, it shouldn't be hard to find.... But I hope it's nothing like Bilitis. I do remember that film. In fact, I watched it while being on an exchange trip in the UK, at the tender, but inquisitive age of 14. To this day I think they only let me in the cinema because I provided a life source for the leeching paedos who set around me. The one sitting next to me certainly made the most of it. I very much doubt a film like this would be allowed these days.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      Please do not be put off Songes by my Bilitis analogy - I annexed that film mainly for the diaphanous clothing association and general air of knowing innocence. I am not even sure if I have seen it all the way through, like Last Tango in Paris indeed, but these half remembered films that were so controversial in their day - and maybe still would be, as you suggest - do rather stick in one's mind.

    2. Enjoy Paris! You are probably never more than six foot away from an Annick Goutal outlet there, hehe.

  7. I love Songes too! It is complex but completely unchallenging. I am tired of challenging fragrances. In the beginning of my perfume journey, I thought I had to like them to be a real fumehead. (Am I the only one who can't figure out why Serge Lutens fragrances are so lauded?). Top to bottom, Songes is just lovely.

    1. Hi nbh,

      I am so with you on challenging fragrances, and half thought about dedicating a post to the topic, then thought it might be a bit controversial. It is very much the same in music, I feel. I went to a Messiaen concert once and thought: 'This is really not me!'

  8. I know that I tried Sognes many years ago. The only thing that I noted then was that it was very fleeting and it disappeared from my wrist first and from the store later - before I could form a final opinion about it. I will revisit if if I come across it: to my disappointment, local Nordstroms stopped caring the brand.

    1. Hi Undina,

      Hmm, there have been several reports of Songes being fleeting, though I found it quite tenacious. I can certainly help you come across it. ;) Annick Goutal was very much a gateway brand for me to other niche houses and I would be sad if it disappeared more widely from stores - not least for the adorable bottles. A friend of mine amused me by saying it looked like 'a fat bottle of Saint-Germain that had eaten all the crossants'. ;)

    2. I have warm feelings toward that brand as well, so I definitely don't want it to become more obscure. But they should stop changing packaging (and re-formulating)! ;)

      (I'd like to take you upon your offer)

  9. I *finally* tried Songes yesterday. I'm not sure how I'd not done so before, but I remembered your review when mooching around HoF, and went straight to skin. (how brave!) It's gorgeous, but... so not me. I don't think I get on very well with the plump, soft smoothness of the tropical flowers. A friend of work kept wandering over to sniff me, though, and I think she may start hankering after this one.

    (I also discovered that while the EDP of Bel Respiro is a lot more tenacious than the beautiful wispy EDT, after about 90 minutes it transforms into a straight up Eau de Fairy Liquid on me.)