One Little Plane: Playing on Prefix

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Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week.

The lines between folk music and electronic music get blurrier every year, thanks to robust audio editing programs arriving pre-loaded on laptops and readily accessible (read: pirate-able) software that enables endless modifications, programmable drum tracks, and other aural accessories to jazz up your bedroom project. Acoustic guitars are no longer the sole hallmark of singer/songwriters.

Chicagoan-cum-Londoner Kathryn Bint is a paragon of this “new folk” model. Under the moniker One Little Plane, she’s been making and releasing sweet, few-frills folk songs that get a gorgeous sonic assist from Kieran Hebdan (Four Tet).

Bint’s debut album Until was released in 2008; a little more sparse and standard in arrangement and instrumentation than forthcoming sophomore album Into The Trees.

Southcoasting speculates that Bint’s music would have fit well into K Records’ late 90s output, and I’m of the mind that this is a pretty apt comparison. In both tone and inflection, Bint’s voice is pretty much the platonic ideal of the 90s Indie Female Vocalist, slipping in and out of focus in an appealing way, simultaneously girlish and grown – and best exemplified by Until’s “The Sunshine Kid”.

Bint’s career is yet young: Until came out to the tune of some light-to-medium blog buzz, but she’s made a huge impression with “She Was Out In The Water”, the Hebdan-produced first release from Into The Trees. Hebdan isn’t the only indie luminary touching this, either – that’s Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood on bass (no surprises there, since Greenwood and Hebdan run in the same circles).

“She Was Out In The Water” has a delicate touch, even though its melody skips along and dares you to keep up. It’s a song about being fully in the present and losing yourself in sensation – tasting the salt in the air, toying with risk, not thinking of much beyond the boy standing in front of you.

She Was Out In The Water by one little plane

Hebdan’s influence is pretty palpable insofar as most of Bint’s songs he’s touched (including “Water”) carry that wide-eyed, clean sound endemic to the songs Hebdan composes as Four Tet. This isn’t to say he’s the man behind the curtain, though: she’s the mastermind, merely using Hebdan’s production to embellish a set of solid songs.

“Embellish” is a funny word to use in reference to folk music, as the genre’s defining feature is typically that the music remains unadorned. But it’s a fine line that folk songs walk: in order to succeed, a folk song needs to sound simultaneously simple and complex – complex and interesting enough to make you think, “hey, I’d like to play that” and simple enough that you probably can. It’s one that Bint walks well.

— By Susannah Young