Nuit Noire (Mona di Orio)

While watching a popular music video the other day, my husband and I noted that the band appeared to be rawking to a degree completely out of proportion to the song being performed. They fake-strummed every tepid chord with a passion bordering on violence while the lead singer clutched the microphone like a bona fide drowning man. From all the sturm und drang, you'd think they were playing Norwegian death metal. Yet this was just a pop song, catchy and agony-free; if one used Nigel Tufnel's famous "eleven" as a default high-volume setting, it rated a five at most. Wherefore all the fuss and white knuckles?

How (perversely, mind you) I miss the minimalist Eighties, when the exact opposite conditions reigned. An impeccably-coiffed musician would stand alone in stark downlighting and depress a single synthesizer key to produce a devastating onslaught of electronic noise, all the while looking perfectly nonchalant. Kraftwerk made an art form of it, as did (among others) Ultravox, the Cars, and New Order. Minimum drama, maximum impact-- that's the way to do it.

It's something for Mona di Orio to consider.

I would have passed her up entirely if all I had to go on was her overwrought website, which far outstrips mine in terms of purple prose. It would have been even worse had I believed only Luca Turin, whose contempt for Mona di Orio can actually be seen from space. But Suzanne sent me a sample of Nuit Noire, of which she spoke highly-- and when she speaks, I listen. I know Suzanne loves a quality tuberose fragrance. And she knows what I love, sometimes even better than I know it myself. So I trusted. And I sprayed. And oh.

Mona di Orio describes Nuit Noire as the scent of "the souks, gardens and hams (?) of old Tunis... all the olfactory heritage of the gorgeous East". This all sounds very lush and Lutensian (by her own telling, Uncle Serge is a hero of hers). But when Nuit Noire hits my skin, I get a marvelous blast of pure urbia: a deluxe "new car" aroma mingled with city soot, exciting whiffs of smoke and pavement, classic floral intensity blended with creosote and tar, all of this set against the backdrop of a thousand towers of steel and stone. The souk belongs to Serge Lutens-- let him have it. Mona di Orio has just annexed the metropolis.

Wearing Nuit Noire, I envision the halogen lights of the Holland Tunnel whipping past tinted limo windows, coolly assessed from within by a pair of dispassionate eyes. Their owner is angular like architecture, cold like circuitry, elegantly androgynous. She (or he; Nuit Noire could just as happily be worn by a man) is en route to a sumptuous rooftop garden from which to survey the city and plan its inexorable takeover. No histrionics, please: this task is not for the easily rattled. Over the limo speakers, Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World" gently fades away to be replaced by the staccato opening salvo of Gary Numan's "Cars":
Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
In cars
Lest you assume from my vision that Nuit Noire is all dystopian sterility and darkness, you'd be as wrong as I was when I deduced from di Orio's wording that this fragrance was one hundred percent Morocco. There's so much more happening here (the depths of which I've yet to fully plumb) that I'm not certain any visual scenario quite does it justice-- hers, mine, anyone's. (Particularly not Luca Turin's, when he likens it to a "loud civet fart". Jeez, man!) Strange dark fruity-grape accords, plasticky-sweet bits, industrial rumblings, seriously sexy purring... this thing has me almost as flummoxed as Breath of God, and you know how that ended. (Scratch that-- it's still ongoing!)

But who cares what I think? When all the rhetoric and hyperbole has died down, when all the power chords and rock-star posturing is stripped away, something very simple remains to be faced and comprehended. Is it good? Is it bad?

Forget the video. Ignore the critics. Get the album. Put the needle in the groove. Listen to the song. Find out for yourself.

Scent Elements: Orangeflower, cardamom, ginger, orange guinée (Guinea pepper; "grains of paradise"), olibanum, cinnamon, tuberose, sandalwood, clove, cedarwood, amber, leather, musk, tonka