A fleeting sniff and you might overlook this perfume with its simple and un-demanding nature. But stop for a moment, take a closer look, and you may find yourself lost in the multifaceted Angela Ciampagna universe.
Balsamic woods, cistus, musks, metallic accord, sandalwood, patchouli.
Angela Ciampagna are a small, artisanal brand producing high quality scents in small runs. They’re Italian, located in a small, family run work-shop which, one imagines, is an inauspicious place to bring to life scents of such rare beauty.
Interestingly, the top notes of Materia are a bit of a riot. Spray it and in the first fifteen seconds a whole host of different impressions come to life. First there is damp, old wood, followed very quickly by a thick sweetness. This changes even as we smell it and becomes very animalic, very dense and musky, all hamster cage and fouled sawdust for a time. There’s even an ammonia-type tinge to the fragrance, but it’s fleeting and not unpleasant.
After the first few, rather zany seconds, Materia really seems to hit its stride. The scent settles down and becomes a sweet, balsamic woody scent with faint hints of a beautiful creamy smoke in the background (the brand note on their website that their production processes often cause smoky notes in their fragrances).
This sweet, balsamic, resiny wood is, at first glance, rather simple in its composition. But this is a perfume of subtle majesty which doesn’t reveal all its secrets at once. To fully appreciate Materia you need to sit down quietly, and watch and wait until the notes peep out and flitter about in the undergrowth in front of you.
If you are able to pay close observation, there are hints of dried fruits in the heart of Materia. A leathery nuance emerges which smells at first like dried tobacco leaves but becomes more like leather hide as the perfume wears. The texture of the scent is brown and crumbly, smoothing out as it goes along and flowing more later in the day.
There’s a ripeness about the heart of the scent, like the ripeness that heralds decay. This is poised with the damp woodiness which almost smells a bit like it is starting to rot and collapse in on itself, but neither of these things are threatening or morbid. Instead in Materia they seem to be almost comforting and familiarly inevitable. Pleasant rather than something to be avoided at all costs. One can’t help but wonder if this is clever perfumery referencing the human condition?
In the base Materia seems to become both drier and more flowing than it was higher up in the composition. The patchouli is strongly evident and the whole scent evokes a sweet, sticky, close and woody vibe. Hints of a pepperiness come through at times to temper the sweet balsamic tones and the metallic accord lurks right at the back of the perfume’s construction. It’s there, but almost like the metal band of a wristwatch that you have worn for years, you don’t notice that you can smell it any more until you deliberately go looking for it.
There’s a loamy, earthy quality about Materia which makes a lot of sense given the perfume’s tagline of “Alla terra: to the earth”, but this is a pleasant leafy mulch rather than a soggy, heavy soil interpretation of what the “earth” could mean.
It’s very easy to quickly sniff Materia and write it off as a bland balsamic wood, but for those who don’t, there are real depths of ingredients here and light and shade hiding within the composition. It’s a subtle perfume for sure, but one which is rewarding when the right person is listening out for what it has to say.
The other stuff
Materia isn’t a loud fragrance at all. It lasts until around midday or early afternoon following an early morning application, but we found it to stay very close to the skin during wear. It doesn’t project very much at all and what does stray away from the body is light and soft.
We felt that this fragrance leans more towards the masculine end of the spectrum given the woody tones, but as always you should feel unfettered in wearing it if you like it.
We felt that Materia would wear best in quiet weather when the scent wouldn’t be overpowered by too much heat, or dampened down by too much cold. So warm spring or autumn days would be ideal.
Materia is available from Bloom Perfumery London where it is priced at £159 for 100 ml of extrait. Bloom very kindly sent us a no-strings-attached sample of this scent.
You can also buy Materia from the Angela Ciampagna web boutique.
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