Mario Batelič / Radio Student Slovenia / May 2010 / Maja Osojnik Band / Album Črne Vode

Maja Osojnik, who was born in Kranj and now lives and works in Vienna, where she moved in 1995 to study the recorder, engages in so many diverse projects that it would take up a considerable portion of this text just to list them all. But to give an impression of her diversity, let us simply say that aside from early music, Maja is also actively engaged in punk, noise and experimental projects. In Slovenia, up until now, we have got to know her mainly through her album, “Oblaki so rdeči”, with its jazzy and experimental versions of Slovenian folk songs, which she presented at the Ljubljana Jazz Festival in 2007. This year, Maja will sing and perform her new album, entitled “Črne vode”, with her band at the closing concert of the Druga Godba Festival on May the 25th.
The expressiveness of Maja’s fresh new album in many ways surpasses that of “Oblaki so rdeči”. In all of its nearly 80 minutes, the album “Črne vode” displays a true compendium of styles and approaches to awaken our emotions. Maja Osojnik and her Austrian musical friends prove to be experts of the exquisitely diverse musical styles displayed on this album, weaving them into a suggestive, complex and inspiring whole.
It is inspiring that again, she has recorded an album in Austria, and yet sings in the Slovene language on all but one song – which is sung in German – and that the musicians, to whom she, as she pointed out in a recent interview, always translates the texts, have managed to grasp the feelings, the nuances and the dramatic turns of the songs remarkably well. There are many turns and changes, and indeed they form a constant on the album, since rarely a song evolves in the “classical” format “strophe – refrain – strophe”. On many occasions, Maja stops a song, slows it down or seemingly interrupts it. The musicians use these moments to create peculiar miniature songs inside the songs that sometimes evoke jazz, sometimes art rock, sometimes improvised music, minimalism and also a lot more.
All of these inventions and interventions contribute to a more complete comprehension of Maja’s excellent texts, which suggestively describe the life and existence of bums, immigrants, outsiders, losers, the unloved and the forgotten. Maja also makes another step forward when singing the partisan song “Počiva jezero v tihoti” – in her version it is not the girl waiting in vain for the partisan, but his boyfriend.
With a colourful variety of instruments, singing styles, effects and interventions, these songs speak to us in either a threatening, entertaining, zany, melancholic or tragic way, but never does the narrative arc of the album get interrupted or become stuck. Often a song may seem to be “stuck”, but that is of course in the sense of the arrangement and performance, when the expected conventional flow starts to falter or transmute, giving a dramatic charge to the songs and a suitable frame for Maja’s texts.
A climax of such interventions is the song “V Ani divja vojna”, which somehow summarizes the modus operandi of the entire album. During its 15 minutes, several styles alternate and the emotions range from hopeful to desperate. Another such example of sonic boldness is the short song “Moja mati kuha kafe”; it is a minute and a half long version of a well known tune from Istria, but this time without any text; all we hear is the rattling of coffee mills.
Maja Osojnik has with great competence and determination gained a unique place in music for herself and her musicians; may she sing the songs of Ježek, the verses of Gregorčič and Kosovel, songs from the Rezija region or the original music of her band, she is always unique and unforgettable. She’s a heroine like no other; while our usual whiners, full of political and personal interests, lament day in, day out the extinction of the Slovene language at home and especially in the border regions, this inquisitive and courageous musician sings in Slovenian in the middle of Vienna and at the same time, resolutely deals with almost the entire history of modern and traditional music alike.
The Album “Črne vode” is an exceptionally well rounded work, not only musically, but also in matters of design and the accompanying booklet, in which one can find translations into ten languages – including Turkish, Albanian and the Carinthian dialect. It is an album that is so multilayered and expressive in both its texts and music that even though some songs have catchy tunes, one simply has to listen to it several times to fully grasp its complexity and sonic image as a whole. It is one of the candidates for the album of the year!