Eki (Slumberhouse)

Artisanal. The word conjures images of rustic cottage workshops or hip Brooklyn loft-labs where ancient traditions live on in infinitesimally small batches. Artisanal joins the adjectives organic, natural, botanical, wildcrafted, local, sustainable and unique in appealing to our inner aficionado, who loves nothing better than a treasure that will never see the light of day again after next Tuesday.

To differing degrees of sincerity and success, independent perfumers such as LUSH, Ineke, Union Fragrance, DS & Durga, Le Labo, MCMC, Soivohle, BPAL, Rebel & Mercury, Sonoma Scent Studio, Aftelier, DSH, Juniper Ridge, Rich Hippie, Smell Bent, Sweet Anthem have all played the artisanal game. Homemade tinctures from obscure native plants. Curatorial coffrets. Here-today-gone-tomorrow limited editions. Gimmicks upon gimmicks... or else no gimmicks at all, which (bizarrely) is a gimmick in itself.

From what I can make out, Slumberhouse is a Portlandia comedy sketch disguised as a perfumery. They make quaint fragrances with peculiar names reminiscent of Vonlenska, the song-glossolalia of Sigur Rós. Their product descriptions are equally twee, evoking rather embarrassing poems secretly scribed by me as an eighth-grader. I have yet to find an authenticated image of Slumberhouse founder Josh Lobb, but I envision a textbook hipster: skinny jeans, horn-rimmed glasses, emo side part, mustache waxed into saucy Pirate King spirals. Surely he sources his own organic jasmine and performs the enfleurage himself, like a modern-day pagan priest.

Yet here's Eki, which is nothing but a chemical white musk with no graceful flourishes to suggest even the most remote natural origins. It's cleaner than Philosophy Pure Grace, more minimalist than L'Eau Serge Lutens; the only thing holding it back from smelling like Clorox bleach is a fleeting tinge of mint, like toothpaste. In my mind's eye, Eki is a lavatory (or is that laboratory?): blindingly white, obsessively clean, never used except by guests, who visit conspicuously seldom. It gives new meaning to the word "spare". It sends chills down my spine. (Pardon me. Is this bathroom occupied... or haunted?)

Either Slumberhouse has missed the point of artisanal perfumery, or they're taking it in a subversive new direction: Open chemical bottle, decant it unaltered into smaller bottles, label by hand.

Scent Elements: Synthetic, functional, white laundry-soap musk. That's it. Forget the jasmine, the magnolia, the "natural damascenones"-- it's just white musk. Finito.