With nine songs in 30 minutes, Digitata's new release, Art Work Pays, is billed as an EP, but feels something like a 85-minute feature film—a little too short to be fully realized, a little too long to pack an immediate punch. But there is a strong EP in there, and the standout numbers make the record a seductive and engrossing summer soundtrack. This is due in no small part to vocalist Maggie Morrison (also of Lookbook), whose ethereal voice glides between breathy come-ons and clear sustains, like Feist with a darker, swirling feel.
The driving tension in Digitata's music is between organic and synthetic elements, with Drew Christopherson's drums on one end and Ryan Olson's sequencer, squiggly synth, and loops on the other. Morrison's voice often rises clear above that push-and-pull, occasionally layered through effects to mixed results. When Olson passes Morrison through a fader on "Sawdust City," like a DJ scratching a record, it comes off as gimmicky, but the layers of distancing distortion on the frantic "Leave It Alone" heighten the effect of the breakup tune.
"Weak Teeth," the longest and most textured track on the disc, is a great example of when the tension of the full band works. Olson's beats punctuate Morrison's vocals, and the tune sways between the synthesizers and Morrison's dreamy Wurlitzer chords as Christopherson's drums build to a thunder of low toms, covering a spectrum of sound. Not all the tracks are as compelling, and sometimes the disc feels like only incremental progress from 2005's Sexually Transmitted Emotions and 2007's II Daggers. Despite the plateau, album closer "mbaby" is a sweet song that takes full advantage of Morrison's melody, supported by stripped-down backing. More of those strong production choices, and Art Work Pays could be a killer full-length.