Originally Released October 9th, 1995. Review originally published May 4th, 2009.
Depending on your point of view, Brian Transeau will be either angel or devil. In these times where the music industry is ever more willing to strongarm audiences into marketable niche tastes, a man widely acknowledged as one of the kingpins of trance will always be perceived as one man’s deity and another’s fool. Either way, he’s helped map out how one route of electronic music has kicked back against the orthodoxy of rock and roll. Later in his career he’d add more recognisable-purist elements into his musical palette, but Ima is a wide-eyed techno hippy trip, a water bottle carrying, day-glo makeup wearing child of a thousand lysergic beach raves. In short, it’s everything that you’re average Metallica fan would probably find deeply offensive.
Recorded straddling the Atlantic, Transeau’s debut suffered from having the kind of sleeve art (Mountains at sunset, rolling seas, cornfields, cloudbursts) which is usually found adorning pictures on executive office walls with motivational sobriquets like “Winners never quit – quitters never win”. But whilst there is undoubtedly more than a sprig of self-help, new religious optimism amongst the massed processing, he also unpacked a box of tricks which eloquently demonstrated why he was being lauded by royalty such as Paul Oakenfold in Britain’s nascent post rave, big club circles. A collection of lengthy pieces – the shortest, Tripping The Light Fantastic weighed in at six and a half minutes – the American expertly avoided the obvious pitfalls of aimless noodling and insubstantial filler, fusing house and techno into a lightweight but ear-pleasing amalgam. That it essentially relied on a go-anywhere spirit that was the fundamental philosophy of dinosaur prog-rock and it’s woody antecedent free jazz was barely acknowledged.
For all of Ima’s oblique nods to seven years of post acid house history, it’s when all of the optimism, warmth and stranger-hugging reflexivity were coalesced that the results were most effective. It took Welsh raconteur par excellence Sasha to deliver this, turning what were effectively Transeau’s offcuts into a superlative mix tape, Sasha’s Voyage of Ima. Recognising that with such stylistic flourishes the music which would become universally known as trance could conquer the world, an exclusive community of jet setting DJ’s used such springboards to become global superstars.
A classicist child prodigy, who went on to briefly attend Berkley before selling his car to finance setting up a label with Deep Dish, the widely perceived disingenuousness of a DJ’s existence has never sat well with Transeau, who has frequently denied the association. Not then the archetypal freeloader which the rock fraternity may have wanted to believe, there are few other comforts on Ima for the rock reactionary to take solace from. But for those permanently in a sweaty tent somewhere, it was an escapist journey par excellence.