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Phil Shöenfelt Backwoods Crucifixion LP / CD

1990 Paperhouse Records/Fire Records PAP002, England

 

 

1. Garden Of Eden
2. Marianne, I'm Falling
3. The Light That Surrounds You

4. Psyche
5. Devil's Hole
6. Hateful Heart
7. Walkaway
8. Salvation Hotel


 

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Musiker
Phil Shoenfelt vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Phil Ames bass guitar
Marcia Schofield keyboards

 

Credits
All songs published by Warner-Chappell
All songs written and arranged by Phil Shoenfelt
Recorded at Bonney St. Studio, Camden Town
Mastered at Abbey Road
Produced by Phil Ames
Photo by Ronni Hui

 

Rezensionen
SOUNDS 15/12/1990
by Tommy Udo
"After hearing 'Backwoods Crucifixion', Phil Shöenfelt's debut LP on Paperhouse Records, you might expect him to arrive with tumbleweed trailing at his worn-out cowboy boots, needles hanging out of his veins, contemplating suicide and generally out-Caving Nick Cave.
In fact, he seems an affable enough chap. So how far do the dark obsessions on the LP - an amalgam of American gothic (Edgar Allan Poe, Faulkner, Night Of The Hunter) and the dark, existential angst (Jacques Brel, Nico, Scott Walker) matter? And how much of this subject matter - addiction, death, etc - is taken from his own life?
'It's based on the time I spent in New York. It was a harrowing time. I knew people there who overdosed ... friends, lovers, and the album is like an exorcism of that time.'
Phil visited New York ostensibly for a week, fell in love with a topless go-go dancer and ended up staying for two years. He joined a band called Khmer Rouge and gigged clubs like CBGBs before returning to the UK.
Phil then played with the Adult Net for a bit, releasing a solo single on Cog Sinister before going on tour with labelmates The Walkingseeds. He supported Nick Cave on his UK dates earlier this year, and it is perhaps with Cave that the closest comparison can be made. But there's also a sort of psychedelic edge to his songs. He is now assembling a band.
'All the gigs I've done up until now have just been me onstage with a guitarist and a drum machine.'
See him soon, because his songs will chill you to the bone."

 

BUCKETFUL OF BRAINS # 35
Phil McMullen
"Shoenfelt's music is steeped in blues and intense gothic imagery, a world peopled by junkies and losers sung in a moody and effective voice over a frequently refrigerated guitar. It came as some surprise to me to learn that he was as English as gold-topped milk, although much of the influence is explained away by the fact that he spent the best part of his formative career in New York where one assumes he was exposed to urban decay and abject despair to a greater extent than might be expected over here. His music is incisive, well structured and thoroughly masterful: a sort of Paul Roland of the high-rise tenement, the David Ackles of the boarded-up street-scene. Somehow amid all this despondency Shoenfelt manages to squeeze in the odd heartrending melody, the occasional gentle caress amid the clamour of powerful rock music played with verve and misleading simplicity. Songs like the powerful, catchy 'Garden Of Eden' (which opens the set) and the more gentle and cunning 'Marianne, I'm Falling' deserve to be heard by as wide an audience as possible - dammit, scream out to be heard."

 

Listen.com "Shoenfelt sings wounded, spiritually fixated lyrics in a rambling voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison. His darkly melodic pop is lean and spare with wiry, off-kilter guitars"

 

Ptolemaic Terrascope
by Phil McMullen
"... Phil Shoenfelt meanwhile follows on close behind in the release stakes. An Englishman who spent his formative artistic career in New York fronting those lovable noise terrorists Khmer Rouge (along with keyboardist Marcia Schofield from The Fall), Phil's distorted view of life and his similarly disturbed way of conveying it through his otherwise gothic-folk/psycho-noise music came to Barker's attention after a Walkingseeds tour support slot in October 1989. A debut album was quickly recorded, given the title Backwoods Crucifixion, and allocated a release date in mid-May 1990. The release does as much for Shoenfelt's career as it does for Barker's reputation, i.e. both look set to explode... "

 

BITCH MENTAL "Long-awaited LP since Charlotte's 12", an even moodier step inside. Haunting melodies and stark backing, the 'Devil's Hole' outstanding in its ubiquitousness. Shit, hang on, what's this reviewer on? Does that mean you can get stoned, drunk and fucked up to it? YES! in fact it's quite nice with a cup of tea as well."

 

CITY LIMITS
by Tommy Udo
"... But since the first time that I saw Cave live, hanging upside down from the balcony of a seedy Glasgow venue, screaming over the top of the Birthday Party trashing out the most evil sound imaginable, he has never disappointed on the life front. Joined by Kid Congo Powers of Cramps and Gun Club fame, with support from Philip Shoenfelt, sometime Fall and Adult Net man, who works in a similar vein (if you'll pardon the pun) to Cave, this ought to be THE event for pale, neurotic boy outsiders and other typical existentialists.
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS are at the Academy, Brixton on June 1."

 

CITY LIMITS
by Tommy Udo
"Brilliant debut solo album from occasional Fall and Adult Net member. There is a Joy Divisionesque quality to this, like Jaques Brel if he'd joined the early Pink Floyd. 'Marianne, I'm Falling' is a bleak, disturbing ballad with overtones of impending violence: the use of the harpsichord adds a disturbing undertone in the manner of the Doors or John Cale. 'The Light That Surrounds You' is a junkie narrative worthy of John Prine or Lou Reed. These are not happy songs: Phil sounds as though he overdosed on 'Sister Morphine' and 'Songs From A Room' years ago. Lyrically, he claims allegiance to an American gothic tradition, from Edgar Allan Poe to noir crime writers. Sad, sordid and very listenable."

 

OBSERVER 03/06/1990
by Simon Frith
"Phil Shoenfelt is packaged as a member of the gloomy school indie rock - dark glasses, dark looks, dark thoughts - but his music is surprisingly lyrics and with another sleeve design - grinning young man with white shirt and gleaming guitar - he could be sold as a romantic balladeer."

 

UNKNOWN
by Sharon O'Connell
"PHIL SHÖENFELT -THE CUBE, LONDON
Kitted out in the maverick's moody cool, Phil Shöenfelt is the stranger dressed in black who wanders in to tell his tales and the disappears. There's an impressive intensity in the half-dozen stories we hear tonight, most of them heavy with guilt, dread and retribution, but Shöenfelt delivers them even-handedly, his thundering somehow gentle. He might put himself at the centre of song, but then manages to dodge the directly personal, and the mix of biblical references with urban junk imagery makes him a little bit Johnny Cash along with Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen.
'Marianne, I'm Falling' is bleakly beautiful - "In the darkness of her room, she reaches for a spoon ... death was an oversight" - its eerie calm as fatally seductive as anything Nick turned out. There's gravel-throated anguish washed with cold, grey waters, though, in 'The Light That Surrounds You', a warning against the folly of trying to rescue someone who's spent their entire life digging their own hole. The pace really picks up for the final 'Devil's Hole', all furious strumming under deceptively easy, brooding vocals. It's a classic, dusty Deep South thing about the gates of hell, tempers running hot and blood running cold, but Shöenfelt takes it all pretty calmly."

 

MELODY MAKER, 23/06/1990
by Sharon O'Connell
"It's a dark world, this one, littered with things holy and hellish and, although the dank and troubled paths of the Deep South have been well-trodden by a host of white boys with varying degrees of authenticity and bad faith, 'Backwoods Crucifixion' succeeds brilliantly by holding off on the usual melodrama and speaking with a subtle voice.
Shöenfelt's talents as a singer/songwriter have a history, too. Once married to The Fall's Marcia Schofield (who plays keyboards on a couple of tracks here), he was with her in Khmer Rouge, hung around the downtown New York scene for a few years, played guitar on the first Adult Net single, and, more recently, on Kid Congo's moody metal-edged EP.
The tone throughout this LP is blue, bent savage and bleakly urban, but without the theatre. It's more Lou Reed or Lenny Cohen than Nick Cave, and Crime And The City Solution are fair comparison, especially in 'The Light That Surrounds You' and 'Hateful Heart'. It's not all doomy though, - 'Psyche' is a sweeter, fuzzed-up Byrds thing - but Shöenfelt's vocals steer so shy of hysteria that, despite the gentleness, he seems detached. He's the slightly spooked story teller in shades, snooping about the netherworld with calm curiosity. His 'Backwoods Crucifixion' is a perfect, passionate understatement stumbled on in the dark."

 

TOP MAGAZINE "After an excellent start with the Walkingseeds album last month, Fire's new subsidiary Paperhouse carry on the good work with new releases from The Badgeman and Phil Shoenfelt. (...) Shoenfelt's 'Backwoods Crucifixion' is a sparse, melodramatic affair obviously influenced by the likes of Jim Morrison and Laughing Len Cohen, with Marcia from The Fall guesting on two tracks."

 

OPTION, USA
by Fred Mills
"Britain's Shoenfelt is no stranger to Biblical imagery, noir wordsmithing, and Southern Gothic dark, embittered passion. His debut LP is full of death-born despair and fatalistic lyrics, and surrounded by stark, blues-based instrumentation; he may be immediately compared to the likes of Nick Cave (Leonard Cohen perhaps?) and David McComb (of Australia's Triffids). His rich, emotional vocal style alternately booms and whispers, and his electric and acoustic guitar work is no less dramatic. Massive chords pour down like rain as a song reaches an eerie, thunderous climax; next moment it's the calm after the storm, with gentle strums a deceptive reassurance. Throughout, the singer/songwriter /who has, in the past, collaborated with the likes of the Fall's Brix Smith and Gun Club/Bad Seed Kid Congo Powers, not to mention leading NYC noise-mongers Khmer Rouge - managed by Andy Warhol in the early 80's) reveals his troubled soul with a brutal honesty. One reviewer compared him to crime novelist Jim Thompson, and that might not be too far off the mark. 'Devil's Hole', a harrowing tale of betrayal and murder, explodes in a sonic convulsion equivalent to a particularly disturbing Thompson chapter. And that is but one side to the Shoenfelt persona. A major talent, methinks."

 

TOTALLY WIRED, Norwich "Armed with a voice like Ian Curtis and a psychedelic / blues-tinged noise, Phil Shoenfelt's debut LP takes us on a religion-tainted nightmare journey. Former leader of Khmer Rouge, Shoenfelt is aided and abetted admirably by Fall keyboard player Marcia Schofield and Phil Ames of Certain General. Touched by the influential hands of such luminaries as Nick Cave, Ian Curtis, Leonard Cohen & HP Lovecraft; 'Backwoods Crucifixion' is a layered, hauntingly melodic, almost balladic jaunt through the mind of Phil Shoenfelt. The opening track 'Garden Of Eden' is a driving backbeat of soul-mining; 'Marianne, I'm Falling' continues this torturous journey. Occasionally let down by shoddy songwriting, particularly 'Hateful Heart', this is a flawed, beautiful and rewarding debut."

 

UNKNOWN "Fans of The Fall will need no introduction to Phil Shoenfelt, who not only played guitar on The Adult Nets debut single, but went on to record for Mark Smith's Cog Sinister label. Now two years later he has finally brought out an album, on the exciting new Paperhouse label.
Backwoods Crucifixion is a difficult album to describe, it has a beautiful gothic feel to it, somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Nico but with far richer electric instrumentation. Its sombre but not moody and well worth the wait."

 

SPIKE
Bath University
"To me Phil Shoenfelt looks remarkably like Phil Spector; but don't let appearances fool you - the music isn't the same. I suppose this is what is loosely tagged "gothic", although it doesn't really suit. Mr. Shoenfelt's voice is deep and almost disturbing - adding emphasis to the dark, shadowy music that he creates. Generally the music is on a doom-laden level - see 'Devil's Hole', 'Hateful Heart' ... however only on occasions does it verge on the totally morose and dour. In this respect 'The Light That Surrounds You' merely plods along and wallows in itself.
The real stand out track, is the opener 'Garden Of Eden' and possibly it is the best track I've heard of this genre; from the opening few bars it spins a murky, black web - constructed around a basic guitar and bass riff: while Mr Shoenfelt relates a story of jet-black proportions. Simply radiant in its bleakness. The tracks are generally of a less high standard, although well worth a listen. If you like this genre then you could buy far worse than this."

 

VELVET, ITALY
by E. Cilia
"Una folgorazione. Non capita davvero tutti i giorni di imbattersi in un LP, un esordio perpipiù, dì così stupefacente bellezza. Quando succede cinque o sei volte in un anno, bé, è stata un'annata memorabile. Phil Shöenfelt, inglese per lungo tempo, dal'79 al 1984, residente a New York e ivi bene introdotto nel giro di Warhol e leader die terroristi sonici Khmer Rouge, tornato in patria ha mantenuto per qualche anno un profilo basso, preparando nell' oscurità, che assai gli si addice, questo straordinario debutto. Fatto con ingredienti semplici: una chitarra a volte lineare, altre immersa nel feedback o filtrata attraverso un wah wah, un basso, un filo di tastiere, una batteria elettronica. Materia prima per otto ombrose ballate che sanno di Cave che rilegge Cohen, di Velvet Underground e John Cale da solo, che ricordano il Paul Roland più gotico e, per la voce, il Johnny Cash più melancolico. Su Phil Shöenfelt 'Velvet' tornerà il prossimo mese con un articolo. Voi, intanto, procuratevi questo capolavoro, un sicuro ospite della playlist di fine anno di."

 

ZÜRICH U-TIP "Kellersänger - Der englische Sänger und Gitarrist Phil Shöenfelt ging 1979 ferienhalber nach New York und blieb dann gleich fünf Jahre dort hängen, hingerissen von der ersten Noise-Welle, angetan von der blutjungen Sonic Youth. 1981 gründete er dort eine eigene Band selber lärmiger Ausprägung, die 'Khmer Rouge'. Zurück in England, begann Shöenfelt mit Mark E. Smith zusammenzuarbeiten, tourte mit dessen Band 'The Fall' und begann Platten auf Smith's Label 'Cog Sinister' herauszugeben. Dieses Jahr nun veröffentlichte Phil Shöenfelt endlich sein Debütalbum, eingespielt mit Hilfe der ehemaligen 'Khmer Rouge' und heutigen 'Fall'-Tastenfrau Marcia Schofield, dem 'Certain General' Phil Ames und einem Beat-Computer. Auf dieser 'Backwoods Crucifixion', so der Name des Albums, lassen sich zwar die Spuren der Lärm- und Lehrjahre heraushören, deutlicher sind jedoch die Einflüsse aus Shöenfelts älterer Plattensammlung, da klingen die Kellerjahre des amerikanischen Songwriting nach - der allegorische Wortschatz Leonard Cohens, die psychedelischen Arrangements Tim Buckleys, der spartanische Blues der Doors, und darüber das düstere trockene Nasentimbre, das immer wieder an John Cale erinnert. Phil Shöenfelt kommt erstmals live nach Zürich; er wird, ganz im Sinne seiner sparsamen düsteren Einspielungen, allein mit Gitarre auftreten, im neuentrümpelten Keller des 'Café Boy'."

 

ROCKERILLA, ITALY
by Marcello Valeri
"Aprite bene le orecchie, spegnete tutte le luci e lasciate cominciare l'oscuro Phil Shoenfelt: non ve ne pentirete.
Phil ha lavorato nell'entourage della famiglia Fall, incide per la Paperhouse, porta occhiali scuri e la sua immagine, insieme alla sua musica, non può che rimandare al Velluto Sotterraneo di New York.
Canzoni buie, che parlano di tossici, amanti torturati e psicopatici: vi ricorda niente? Per lui si scomodano i nomi di Cohen e Cave, i riferimenti letterari ai mostri indefiniti che rapiscono i bimbi nelle culle per portarli nelle loro fogne di H.P. Lovecraft e i fantasmi etilici non contaminati da Roger Corman di Edgar Allan Poe.
Leader in precedenza dei Khmer Rouge, newyorkesi terroristi del suono in compagnia della tastierista dei succitati Fall Marcia Schofield, ha avuto come manager Nat Finkelstein, dell'entourage di Warhol e fotografo per i Velvet. Il cerchio si chiude.
La fusione di batteria elettronica e strumenti acustici, la sua totale astensione da mode e attenzione all'immagine fanno di Phil Shoenfelt un outsider da tenere in considerazione per gli anni a venire.
Ballate sinistre come 'Garden Of Eden', o ricordi di John Cale in 'Marianne, I'm Falling', i Birthday Party più blues di 'The Light That Surrounds You', il sixties di 'Psyche' e di 'Devil's Hole', stupende nella loro accessibilità obliqua, la tristezza di Cave in 'Hateful Heart' e il suono incantato di 'Walkaway', la conclusione di 'Salvation Hotel', così affogata nella salvezza della disperazione, consentono di definire un classico questo album che consiglio di cercare con il lanternino. Il buio oltre il vinile."

 

Velvet, Italy
by Eddy Cilia
Ultime frontiere - Phil Shöenfelt

Le poche foto che circolano di Phil Shöenfelt - cantautore inglese di Bradford vissuto per lungo tempo a New York, alla corte di Andy Warhol, autore di uno dei debutti a 33 giri più persuasivi (forse il più criminalmente ignorato) dell'appena trascorso 1990 sono assai simili fra loro. Tutte quante effigiano il Nostro immerso in un'ombra da cui solo il volto, sovente mezzo volto (e qualche volta le mani), emerge. L'espressione è triste, fra l'asorto e il catatonico, gli occhi non di rado celati da lenti da sole. Sono scatti che dicono molto della musica di Shöenfelt, che com'essi è già accaduto e tutto ciò che poteva andare male è andato male. E, probabilmente, domani andrà peggio. Un mondo abitato da amanti torturati, eroinomani, aspiranti suicidi e psicopatici, un universo en noir che ha fatto chiamare in causa, ai pochi che hanno scritto di quell'album bellissimo e terribile che è Backwoods Crucifixion, maestri del gotico americano quali Edgar Allan Poe e H.P. Lovecraft e moderni esploratori delle giungle del delitto e dell'umana miseria come Jim Thompson e James Ellroy. Giustamente.

Quanto ai punti di riferimento puramente musicali di Shöenfelt, si potrebbe andare avanti per qualche cartella dicendo che qui somiglia a... e lì a... mentre quell'altro frammento ricorda... e là sembra proprio... solo per poi concludere che il suo stile è un qualcosa di assolutamente unico e, appunto, suo. Ma bisogna pur darne un'idea al lettore che non ne ha avuto esperienza diretta e si dica allora che è fondamentalmente un crossover fra il Nick Cave più prossimo a Leonard Cohen e il Paul Roland più cupo, con non irrilevanti tracce subliminali di blues del Delta (del male di vivere di Robert Johnson) e di country (del male di vivere di Johnny Cash).

Naturalmente, essendo il Nostro di natali albionici, non poteva mancare un certo, perverso gusto pop ed ecco, allora, un brano come "Walkaway", che potrebbe essere un grande singolo dei Jesus And Mary Chain del periodo di mezzo, a cavallo fra il "Some Candy Talking EP" e Darklands. E come c'era da aspettarsi da uno che è stato parte del giro di Warhol, devozione ai Velvet Underground, che, intelligentemente, si esplicita non in copie fotostatiche i del modello bensì nel rielaborarne l'insegnamento. Se come autore di testi Phil Shöenfelt deve molto a Lou Reed, che fu colui che per primo portò sul palcoscenico del rock'n'roll la devianza metropolitana, pure come musicista gli rende omaggio, avendone compreso perfettamente la lezione di semplicita. Le otto ballate che compongono Backwoods Crucifixion a Shöenfelt hanno offerto validissima collabrorazione Phil Ames, dei Certain General, e l'ex-Fall Marcia Schofield - sono spoglie, essenziali, senza un orpello. Eseguite con chitarra (e qualche effetto adoprato con parsimonia), basso, tastiere (tanto suggestive quanto discrete) e una batteria elettronica usata con raro gusto. Siamo distanti dal frastuono dei terroristi sonici Khmer Rouge, di cui Shöenfelt fu il leader, ma questa musica, in fondo, non è meno terrorizzante. Ce lo disse, con agghiacciante concisione, T.S. Eliot: "This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang / But with a whisper"

 

amazon.de
Kundenrezension 27/06/2000
"Phil Shöenfelt ist ein Musiker, der sich keinen Zwängen oder Modeerscheinungen unterordnet. Dies bewies er bereits zu seiner Zeit als "Khmer Rouge"-Bandleader, ebenso bei seiner ersten Solo-LP "Backwoods Crucifixion". Die düstere und schwermütige Stimmung auf diesem Album lässt einen (wie so oft im Zusammenhang mit Shöenfelt) an Nick Cave und Leonard Cohen denken. Die acht Songs auf dieser CD lassen an Kraft, Tristesse und Melancholie aber auch an schwarzen Humor nichts fehlen. Inzwischen dürfte der Engländer Phil Shöenfelt und seine tschechische Band "Southern Cross" auch in Deutschland nach dem Erscheinen des Albums "Dead Flowers for Alice" (zyx, 1999) bekannt sein."

 

nuzzprowlinwolf.blogspot.com
23/08/2009
"Phil Shoenfelt, the missing link between The Clash and Nikki Sudden, (More about that in a future post) because this one concerns itself with his 1990 debut 8 track album Backwoods Crucifixion. A gothic masterpiece, notice the small g, because I aint talking Gothic as in Sisters Of Mercy, but gothic as in a laid back soulful, bone chilling, spine tingling, sleazy, swampy blues collection of songs. Not for the faint hearted or heartless, think Nick Cave and yer almost there. If this sounds like your bag then here [LINK] you go. If not well…………..why not give it a blast, who knows you might find you like it, then again you might not, no harm in trying a shot though."

 


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