Scenting ECM: A Fragrance Review

Likely anyone who has been listening to ECM for a significant amount of time knows the Gertrude Stein quote that follows the label’s ever-expanding catalog like a shadow: “Think of your ears as eyes.” But here is a rare instance that asks you to think of your nostrils as eyes. Introducing Notch Code, a niche perfume house from South Korea dedicated to creating scents based on artistic works: in this case, two images by photographer Woong-Chul An, which should be familiar to ECM fans as the covers for Anja Lechner and François Couturier’s Moderato cantabile and Jack DeJohnette’s In Movement. After reaching out to the company, I was grateful to receive a discovery set with matching blotter papers for this review.

Moderato cantabile is the inspiration for Soleil Tuberose. Featuring notes of cardamom, pink pepper, rose, black pepper, tuberose, musk, sandalwood, and cedarwood, this evocative fragrance almost lingers on the tongue. The elements are respectfully combined, with enough separation to seek them out individually. Each asserts clarity as part of a collective sound that blurs the lines between them. The pink pepper hits the nose first, followed by the rose and tuberose, before the woody base steps into the foreground during the dry-down period. Fans of tuberose who want a softer feel of this difficult-to-balance ingredient will find much to savor.

In Movement finds new olfactory life in Musk Eternity, a choral blend of musk, frankincense, orchid, and jasmine. The floral elements work synergistically to elevate the normally darker musk and frankincense into fruitier territory. This one immediately evokes the crystalline masterpieces of UK perfrumer Thameen (especially The Hope). Such low warmth and intimacy deserve to be called twilight in a bottle.

The sillage of both perfumes is gentle yet noticeable. Longevity is modest (around three to four hours on my skin), making it suitable for casual wear or for situations in which an understated entrance is required. Like the fine albums with which they are associated, each must be put on to be remembered.

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