The Order Of The 12 – Lore Of The Land
Don’t think that psych-folk sounds like a style you would like? Think again! Enter the debut LP from The Order Of The 12 (February 10, 2023) from Lewes, Sussex. Bundled up as yet another project from prolific electronic artist Richard Norris, the LP includes the ethereal, haunting vocals of Rachel Thomas, and is co-written by Norris, Thomas, and Stuart Carter. Instrumentation is mostly light and provided by Norris (keyboards, drums) and Carter (guitars), while the all-important production falls to the experienced Norris again.
When Vodka reached out to Norris for some additional information on the LP as well as perhaps some lyrical meaning, I received most of what I asked for, sans the lyrical meaning. For that Norris explained:
“Regarding lyrics, I would prefer people to make up their own minds what it is about. All I can say is that it is based on the life and death of a famous writer who lived very near us here in Sussex. In fact both Rachael and I lived in the village just by where she lived.”
This is something that I can definitely get behind. Music and lyrics can mean different things to different people and those interpretations are never wrong. In true folk style, this entire LP is a story.
Against The Tide (heard here) is the opening track on this LP. The guitars and drums lead things off with a mesmerizing introduction, and when Rachel’s vocals click in, things heat up, with the instruments playing at the edges of her vocals and then building when the vocals wan before the refrain. It’s a very infectious song, and a good way to start this collection.
I asked Richard Norris if perhaps there was an unacknowledged cello player missing from the credits as I thought I heard one on Eye Of A Lens (track 2), but it turns out that this sound was achieved by Stuart Carter using a bow on his guitar. It’s a marvelous sound that adds to the texture of the music.
Somewhere Nearly Gone features that same “cello” sound. The harmony provided by Rachel Thomas against her own lead vocal is a nice touch on this track. It is a beautiful track, full of lightly picked guitar, a very singable melody, and a touch of vibrato on the picked guitar in places that adds to the eery feel.
A very lightly picked guitar and electronic keyboard introduction are featured on Money Can’t Buy. Here there is the feel of a full orchestral accompaniment as well as a choral “ahh” that sits in the background and is likely a multi-layered instance of Thomas. It’s wonderful! Given the minimal number of instruments that actually participate on the LP and the primary use of Thomas for vocals, there’s always the risk that these tracks would end up sounding too similar, but there is definitely thought going into making sure that this doesn’t happen. There is, of course, similarity, and that is to be expected when you are telling a long musical story.
That brings us to the title track which features Rachel using a light breathy vocal introduction and a very light underlayment of instruments. Again, Rachel harmonizes with herself beautifully here. The music builds slightly near the halfway mark as does the vocal intensity, but only briefly. The Order Of The 12 leaves plenty of spacial room here for all sorts of interpretation from the listener. It feels grand in its minimalism!
A little light marching music is the feel of The Forest At Night. This track comes off with a more traditional folk-song sound. It works beautifully, though, with the rest of the collection and it is just such variances (as described earlier) that keep the collection cohesive, without sounding completely the same as every other track.
The Black Knight is nearly a solo performance by Thomas, the instruments are very much background here, and it works so well!
Once again featuring a great melody Save Me From The Carnival features light guitars and keyboards, minor percussion (just enough to set a tempo), and of course, Rachel Thomas’ wonderful vocals. While you might not sing this song on the first listen, it does gain airplay in your head on subsequent replays.
With a light pop rhythm, Wishing Well is nearly a ballad. It still fits in the folk story and is again just enough of a change to keep things interesting.
Finally, Down To The Ring ends the collection with bell-ringing sounds to start (and lightly throughout). The repeating line “Down to the ring we go” is lightly sung with the melody carried by Thomas (of course). Here the feel is of finality, almost a funeral march. A fitting bookend, with the light, airy, and dancing opener Against The Tide.
The Order Of The 12 represents something of a musical fork in the road for Richard Norris, who is best known for his work with the dance group The Grid and electronic psych masters Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve. You may also recognize his work if you are a fan of his Music For Healing series on his bandcamp.com site, a collection of warm electronic, deep-listening music. The new project pays homage to traditional folk music while melding elements of psych-folk, styles of music that have been of interest to Norris for some time. Teaming up with multi-instrumentalist Stuart Carter and singer Rachel Thomas to form the new group, has allowed Norris to explore these more traditional musical styles while maintaining a contemporary feel. The results culminating in Lore Of The Land, couldn’t be more impressive!
For additional information on Richard Norris, make his bandcamp.com site your first stop, where you will find links to his Facebook and Twitter feeds. I did ask for link information for Rachel Thomas and Stuart Carter but did not receive a comment on those. The names are relatively common and a search with those names linked with “music” turns up multiple artists. I just wasn’t sure I had the correct people to include their links here.
Richard Norris has a storied history as a musician. The Order Of The 12 project represents just another chapter in that history. It’s a collection well worth your purchase. I’m hopeful that this will be just the first of several offerings from this group. Lore Of The Land is available for purchase in just two days (February 10, 2023). Pick it up on pre-order now!