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The best kept secret in music


"First Avenue Best New Bands of 2005 Showcase"

live review 2006

The Pretenders were next. Or maybe it was Blondie? I couldn’t quite place the influence, but Digitata was a welcome surprise. Sweet, melodic and with more 80s synth than you could shake a Casio at, appropriately-named trio Digitata was my favorite act of the night. Lead singer Maggie Morrisson has a spooky Chrissie Hynde-esque voice that managed to keep the group from falling too far into 1986 (Chrissie Hynde is universal, don’t you know). Employing two members of Mel Gibson and the Pants (Ryan Olson and Drew Christopherson), I could see Digitata opening for Halloween, Alaska, with their heightened placidity and tinny-electronic drum sound. One song, which I unfortunately don’t have the name of (record store, here I come!) made me stop the bad habit of chewing on the ice in my drink and hold my breath a little. It was one of those melodies that ribbons your memory and makes all sorts of forgotten moments float back into consciousness. Digitata will next be playing at the Rock for Roe benefit at the Triple Rock this Sunday, January 22nd, and I double-highly-with-three-cherries recommend them. (Z.B.) - howwastheshow.com

"Record Review (2006)"

I'm sick. Well, not quite yet; I've got that sore throat and vaguely stuffy nose that hint of misery to come, which can be worse than the actual cold. Sometimes the right music can both justify your misery and make you feel better. Digitata does this for me.

Digitata is on the Minneapolis label Totally Gross National Product, also home to the excellently named band Mel Gibson and the Pants (who have an excellently named song "Crosby Steals Nash and Runs"), and the bands share a couple members.
This song completely pulls me in, from that plodding piano to the frantic beats, and especially singer Maggie Morrison's confident vocals. And then there's that M.I.A.-like breakdown at the end that somehow surprises me every time I hear it.

Right? The band's record Sexually Transmitted Emotions is very, very good. Death and the Beach is pretty representative of the disc's overall sound, a song cycle of sometimes chilly, sometimes warm digital goodness that never stops. And, really, can you resist a CD that contains a track called Oscar Wilde Breakdown? I thought not.

You can pick up Sexually Transmitted Emotions from the Totally Gross National Product - music.for-robots.com

"Dancing and Drowning: The Sounds of Digitata"

Trying to decipher Maggie Morrison's lyrics can be as confusing as a game of telephone, with words and meanings quickly becoming garbled and misunderstood.

For example, when Morrison sings, "just a storm cloud," on Digitata's first album, "Sexually Transmitted Emotions," some listeners hear "Mr. Storm Cloud" - which makes the group seem far more like "Kidz Bop" than they actually are.

Even Digitata's drummer Drew Christopherson said he hears the lyrics quite differently.

Digitata's Maggie Morrison, Ryan Olson and Drew Christopherson make a good first impression.
"I'm always shocked what the real lyrics are," he said.

Morrison adds a pout - not whiney, but sexy - to each syllable, which contributes to the songs' haziness. Much of this style has to do with the group's songwriting process.

It all starts with Ryan Olson's electronic backdrops, which verge on Intelligent Dance Music, but are actually dance-friendly. Next, Morrison assembles a melody to go along with the beats before she figures out the final words.

Because Morrison emphasizes melody first, the ambiguity of Digitata's lyrics is hardly noticeable. The songs on "Sexually Transmitted Emotions" beg to be sung along with, even if it seems like you're singing Hindi. 

Olson and Christopherson are also in the band Mel Gibson and the Pants, and both groups share similar electronic elements, though Digitata boasts more warmth and pop.

Morrison said that when she was first asked to join Digitata, she thought the band would be created in the vein of Fischerspooner.

"I pictured its vocals as dry and unemotional," she said.

Instead, Morrison's soulful voice, along with a Rhodes keyboard, give the group a human touch amid electronic grooves.

The group credits label-mate Dave Matters' (of Belles of Skin) fondness for the 1984 pop song "Let's Hear It for the Boy" as their inspiration.

"When you see what a song can do for a guy like that…" Christopherson said.

Though "Sexually Transmitted Emotions" has its moments - especially the track "What's Cookin'?" - which captures the gleeful pop of that '80's Denise Williams song, the band is as serious about their inspiration as they are about the origins of their name.

According to the three members, they found the term written on a sword pulled from lava somewhere in South Minneapolis.

Like the group's lyrics, it's up to you to decide the truth.  - Minnesota Daily

"City Pages article 5/05"

Digitata is a local trio specializing in half-live, half-electronic music, and as such, their music reminds me of cyborgs. Specifically, cyborgs having sex. I'll explain.

There's always a weird dichotomy that arises when an artist chooses overtly nonhuman elements to flesh out their baby-makin' music. Smooth rap is a case in point--Missy Elliott can get anyone's blood flowing, but Timbaland's beats? They're like the wide-open North Dakota prairie--and what NoDak tourism advocates call "mysterious" and "evocative" is really just empty and lifeless. Singer and pianist Maggie Morrison has a gift for exciting her audience's nocturnal impulses as she gasps, whimpers, growls, and wails her way through Sexually Transmitted Emotions (Totally Gross National Product), Digitata's eight-song debut. The difference here is that Digitata's robotic texture (courtesy of Ryan Olson's Yamaha RS-7000, lovingly dubbed "the Box") manages to sound every bit as yearning as Morrison's vocals do. The result is a luscious sort of electronica that strives, like Pinocchio and Lieutenant Commander Data, to be real (amorous, even). At the heart of their blippity ballads beats the unmistakable pulse of life.

So much so, in fact, that as the title of Sexually Transmitted Emotions suggests, Digitata's music has a way of infecting even its coldest surroundings with a little juice de vivre. Which is why one rainy Sunday not long ago, as I found myself dozing off to the album's Luscious Jackson-inspired closer, "Sea Scandal," I was unruffled when a car alarm began to scream outside my bedroom window. Rather than interrupt my little reverie, the incessant bleating fell in time with the beat of the song, and as it gently rocked me to sleep, my last waking thought was, My god, that's the sexiest car alarm I've ever heard.

That's saying something, my own Toyota-philia notwithstanding. That such an abrasive and inhospitable sound could fade into the wallpaper, and even stir the loins, is a testament to Digitata's aesthetic: jarring laptop IDM made sensual. Like love songs for Autechre fans.

Such was not always the plan, the group tells me over beers just before opening a show at the 7th St. a few weeks ago. Morrison, Olson, and drummer Drew Christopherson are all part of the seemingly endless supply of hyper-talented musicians immigrating to the Twin Cities from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and their backgrounds hardly foretold a foray into dance-floor diva-ism. Olson and Christopherson both pull double duty in two local bands already, one punk (Building Better Bombs) and one hip-hop (Mel Gibson and the Pants). Morrison, too, has some decidedly nonelectronic cred on her résumé, having played keyboards for defunct rock bourboneers Kentucky Gag Order.

"We just knew that we wanted to play electronic music, and that we wanted to work with Maggie," says Christopherson, a boyish 24-year-old with sandy blond hair. "I was pretty shocked by the music when we started writing it."

Not that pairing live instruments with drum machines and sequencers is anything new, of course. STE's listeners aren't asked to tread terribly unfamiliar ground, and it will surely gain Digitata comparisons to other tripped-out bands with female vocalists, such as Morcheeba, Portishead, and Massive Attack. But their influences are more varied than that. "There's definitely a level of fun that we try to achieve that comes from hip hop," Christopherson says. Hip-hop fans apparently agree, as the band recently returned from a successful string of opening gigs on Atmosphere's Se7en tour. Not bad gig for a band that's only been together a year, and that up to that point had no product to hawk.

That's all changed with this new release, one that they're happy to get behind them. "I like our new songs better," says Morrison, who admits that her opinion is based on the fact that she gets to play more Wurlitzer on the new material. Olson agrees. "We know what we're doing now, we know where we're going," he says. "We can write a part now and just know that Maggie's gonna wail over it. So yeah, the new stuff is definitely better."

Considering the quality of Sexually Transmitted Emotions, that would be (ahem) alarming. Mothers, lock up your car doors. - City Pages (Minneapolis)

"Pulse article 5/05"

For some strange reason I have yet to be able to explain, local electronica act Digitata’s hypnotic new CD, Sexually Transmitted Emotion, is the disc I have consistently been falling asleep to this week. Not in the Good-God-this-new-REM-album-is-so-boring sense, more of a My-what-a-soothing-sound-oh-man-it’s-already-3 A. M.-why-am-I-still-working type of vibe. The reason I mention this is that I have also duly noted that Digitata-fueled dreams are by far some of the most bizarre and intense dreams I have experienced in my 26 years on this here planet.

None of which probably makes the band very happy with me, as it appears by all accounts to aim more for hot-make-out-jams status. Moreover, to be fair, that is indeed its primary application according to an informal and decidedly unscientific poll that I conducted recently.

Nevertheless, that is not to discount the weird-ass sleeping soundtrack capabilities, mind you. Dreams where I am in Yankee Stadium and it is totally empty except for Matt Damon and his brand new herd of sheep. The type of dreams where Donald Trump gives me a million dollars and I end up blowing the whole wad by marrying the entire cast of the film “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” male and female, in an elaborate ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah. The kind of dreams where I’m walking down the hallways in junior high and I run into Mr. Belvedere, who mentions that my mom really likes him a lot and he will be joining us for dinner this evening. That sort of thing.

The band Digitata is more or less a side project of Andy Christopherson and Ryan Olson of Mel Gibson & the Pants fame with Maggie Morrison on diva vocal duties. Whereas Mel Gibson & The Pants is ostensibly avant-garde, Anticon-brand backpacker hip-hop, Digitata strays more into shiny yet sultry glitch-hop knob twiddling, as if Manitoba, Vox Vermillion and Diplo stumbled back from the bar and passed out cradled in each other’s arms on an old beanbag.

Live drummer and keyboardist Christopherson also contributes to Building Better Bombs, better known as P.O.S.’s ongoing hardcore project. Vocalist and Wurlitzer organ operator Maggie Morrison was briefly a member of the now defunct psychobilly outfit Kentucky Gag Order, some of whose said members later went on to form the Belles of Skin City. Together with sequenced beat master Ryan Olson, Christopherson is a co-proprietor of the fledgling independent record label Totally Gross National Product. TGNP is now home to the aforementioned Digitata, Mel Gibson & the Pants and Belles of Skin City.

Standout track “Death And The Beach” draws comparisons to cinematic, chill-out product shelved next to, say, Morcheeba, St. Etienne and possibly even Black Box Recorder to a certain extent. Fisher Price beats commingle peacefully with tasteful piano licks, while a sensuous young lady coos about not knowing what to wear for the evening. Imagine if the printer at work suddenly sprouted legs and sneakers and then started break dancing and you are halfway there.

All middle-class-Caucasian-Joe-jobbers with some college under their belt, hailing originally from the fair state of Wisconsin, the group has been playing together for roughly a year and a half now. As the trio explained to me over cheap beer and even cheaper tacos in Uptown recently, they’re all pretty sure they wouldn’t classify their act as rap per se, but certainly don’t mind the burgeoning attention they’ve been receiving as of late from Doomtree, Eyedea and others within the local Hip-Hop community.

“We got to go on tour for nine shows opening up for Atmosphere, which was incredible,” said Christopherson. “It definitely was a different type of crowd than we usually get, and by different I mean much much bigger,” Morrison added with a wink. Olson happily mentioned that it was indeed Stef from P.O.S. moonlighting as a hand model for the blingy goods displayed on the front cover. “But don’t get me wrong, we’re still all about shooting 50 Cent.”

As is obviously also the case with Mel Gibson & the Pants, a healthy and decidedly ribald sense of humor separates Digitata far above atypically morose laptop minimalist maestros such as TM Schneider. Case in point: goofy song titles like “Oscar Wilde Breakdown” and the totally random Barry White solo on lead track “What’s Cooking?”

That aww-shucks-signature-silliness was in rare form for a taping of the local television program “Drinking with Ian,” the debut of which the trio awaits with baited breath. “There’s a ton of profanities,” Christopherson informed me, literally beaming.

Olson, whose towering greasy pompadour causes him to slightly resemble the protagonist of the 1991 Don Bluth film “Rock-A-Doodle,” remained cagey about the true meaning of the band’s name. “All I’m going to say is that you’ll need a very old medical dictionary,” explained Olson in a cryptic, mysterious tone. “I will give you a hint: it is not electronic breasts,” offered Morrison semi-helpfully.

- Pulse of the Twin Cities


new full-length album is coming Fall '06.

"Sexually Transmitted Emotions" CD 2005
-various cuts available from our website
-debuted at #10 most added to playlists throughout
the USA (cmj)

"Stuck on AM 5" compilation CD 2006
-comp of in-studio performances on the acclaimed
college radio station KUOM 770, Radio K.

"Art Hear" compilation CD 2005
-comp released by the Minnesota Museum of
American Art


Feeling a bit camera shy


Digitata was formed in early 2004 in Minneapolis with Maggie Morrison on Wurlitzer and vocals, Ryan Olson on sequencer and vocal effects, and Drew Christopherson on drums. Digitata began solidified their sound and performing live immediately, gaining them notable attention around the Midwest music scene. Many took note, including local hip-hoppers Atmosphere, who invited them on the Pacific Northwest leg of their spring tour, in April of 2005.

In late spring of '05 they released their debut album, Sexually Transmitted Emotions on Totally Gross National Product (Minneapolis). The album was well received, resulting in CMJ’s #10 most added to playlists for the week of June 14th, 2005. Many were drawn to the pulsing electronics and dance-tastic rhythms that weave in and out of Morrison's sultry, captivating vocals. Having struggled to settle on a specific genre to place it, Digitata let the listeners decide, which landed somewhere in between 80's dance-pop and indie-electronica.

The follow-up to their debut is finished, and is slated to be released spring '06. Digitata accomplished an even more focussed and textured selection of songs by working with at the Hideaway Studio with local engineer/producer Joe Mabbot (Atmosphere, Plastic Constellations, P.O.S., etc.). The album is a huge step forward for Digitata.

Digitata continues to perform throughout the Midwest regularly, headlining local shows and supporting various touring acts.