Images of Noah Purifoy’s Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum.
Perfumer Josh Lobb.
Like other Slumberhouse perfumes, New Sibet feels deliberate. As if the perfume I’m smelling is the thousandth mod. The one that got the dynamics, tones and balances just the way the perfumer intended. The attention to detail is apparent, but most Slumberhouse perfumes favor ecstatic imbalance over caution. New Sibet is focussed and edited differently, though, and it’s quite a change from the recent sweet, syrupy directness of Kiste and Sadanne.
Still, it’s not a return to the good-old/bad-old viscous Slumber-style that many have been publicly hankering for. Better yet, it’s something new. New Sibet is an unexpected iris. It balances the notoriously finicky note and succeeds in creating a distinctive, durable iris root. It turns iris root’s signature powder to dust and ash, keeping the focus on a grey horizon. Iris’s leathery/paper side gives the perfume a stiff, upright posture.
Independent and artisanal perfumers have been re-examining traditional forms. Chypres, animalics, fougères. If Lobb has been deciphering vintage genres, his approach is the furthest thing from recreating an old-school sensibility. New Sibet doesn’t reach for a vintage, nostalgic vibe but it does have the tailored rigidity of the classic floral/animalic chypres and the snubbed-cigarette severity of the old leather chypres. The olfactory qualities are there, but the haughtiness, the ‘grand-dame’ character of those retired chypres don’t apply.
Lobb famously doesn’t work with topnotes, but with New Sibet he plays with the evolution of the perfume and materials in a new way. The opening set of notes reduces over the course of an hour or so–like a striptease–revealing the core of the perfume. The notes then continue to rotate through different configurations through the drydown. Different facets appear and recede, emphasizing different angles of the central woody floral. Spice, resin, animalic tones, sweetness. This changing geometry of notes is a style Lobb has explored over the course of his career but in New Sibet he polishes the technique even further.
Others have mentioned that New Sibet has a strong sense of location or setting. It suggests old libraries, long-sealed environments, open-windowed drive through new locales. For me New Sibet’s echoes the lost-but-found feel of artist Noah Purifoy’s California desert site. Objects in the desert don’t decay, exactly. There’s not enough moisture for rot. They become sanded and scorched, eventually crossing a threshold of fragility and dissolving into the desert. No longer performing their original function (a beer can, a car, a shotgun shell) they become abstract objects, less than they were. New Sibet feels similarly weathered and purified, giving it a distant, detached feel.
Noah Purifoy’s Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum was conceived/built/assembled over many years by the artist with the intention that it would eventually fall back into the desert. Being there feels like going to a carnival that’s squatting in an abandoned drive-in movie theater. It is lovingly maintained, but never updated/renovated/repaired. T-minus one century until all traces of it blow away. Halfway fallen back into the desert, its meaning is revealed in layers. Like Puifoy’s land New Sibet ‘s dusty melancholy has a durational quality that makes it a great companion over the long haul.
(From my own bottle of New Sibet, purchased from Slumberhouse.)