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For the last few weeks, a small group of us have been chatting behind the scenes about Christi Meshell's Seattle-based House of Matriarch, comparing notes and sharing thoughts on what the line has to offer. Our initial focus has been on Blackbird, a fragrance that contains almost 300 ingredients, the majority of which are natural with many of the materials sourced and tinctured by the perfumer herself. The result is a powerful, expressionistic head-trip of a scent that should appeal to lovers of natural perfumery and rich, enveloping fragrances alike. In addition to Blackbird, we've also been discussing a number of other offerings from the line. Consequently, this thread might serve as a place for the curious to gain a fleshed-out perspective of what Matriarch has to offer, how the perfumes line up in relation to other natural perfumes, and what the brand contributes to the current indie fragrance scene. Of course it'd also be wonderful to hear from others who have tried the line, too!

Blackbird




Blackbird is a brooding, complex, swirling, wall-of-scent, kaleidoscope of a perfume which, given its notes and general dark aesthetic, is surprisingly warm and encompassing.


As a perfume created to "honor the mysterious essence of Seattle style makers and artists," Blackbird cements its lineage to the Pacific Northwest, but also to the notion of perfumery as collaborative art, as Meshell's creation nods to the history collectives, community, and the ways in which a locale or a specific moment can be captured and rendered as a representational aesthetic experience.


Upon application, there's an unmistakable head shop corollary that's invoked—a semi-sweet scent of unburned incense that serves to introduce the scent but quickly steps aside to reveal facets of leather, woods, and a light salty algae-type accord. Yet, through the sweet and slightly floral opening, what becomes most clearly discernible is a leather note that's merged with the cannabis to invoke a smokey, heady impression. And this carries with it a paraesthetic effect in that you can almost physically feel yourself smelling it in a manner that's similar to the "furry" aspect of PG's L'Ombre Fauve or even Kiehl's Musk
It should be noted here that Blackbird has a hell of a lot going on—literally hundreds of absolutes and natural materials are deployed, bolstered by a handful of synthetic fixatives to create an overwhelming extravagant affair, one that's stands on its own and swirls and changes from moment to moment. 


Following the initial sweetness of the opening, the leather and cannabis notes are joined by a biting and "furry" animalic musk that forms the main structure of the scent—one that lasts an astoundingly long time. It's here that Blackbird shines as it settles onto the skin to create a field of heady, intoxicating richness. This stage pulls back on the projection of the opening and instead focuses on extreme sillage—this stuff leaves serious trails! Not only that, but it wafts in and out for a considerable stretch of time after the application, triggered by the most minimal increases in body temperature. And the trails that it leaves are just beautiful as much of the leather drops to the background, and what remains is the "furry" musk, subtle oud and resinous notes, and the headiness of the cannabis.
 
Blackbird's not going to be for everyone—especially those who favor clinical, chemical precision in their fragrance; in fact, the amount of natural materials in this scent alone sends you into an olfactory tailspin. Yet it's clearly articulated with great care and its fuzzy edges are kept in line to prevent the scent from simply exploding into a big mess. It's dark and moody, but doesn't bum you out. instead, it envelopes you in heady richness. Blackbird's highly ambitious and probably breaks all the "rules" of scent composition, yet it does so with self-assurance by keeping its somewhat grandiose head firmly planted upon its shoulders. For fans of dark, rich, heady fragrances, this one's for you.