While its status as the first I’ve release is debatable (first off one has to take into account whether or not Kazuya Takase’s early material as MediaSync Puu et al. counts as I’ve, and even not counting those there’s still the issue of whether or not game soundtracks count as official I’ve releases), the first volume of the I’ve Girls compilation series seems an ideal place to start for a retrospective review of the I’ve Sound oeuvre.
Various – I’ve Girls Compilation vol. 1: regret (1999, Visual Art’s)
1. 美妃 (Mihi) – FUCK ME
2. 彩菜 (Ayana) – Last regrets
3. MARY – そよ風の行方 (Soyokaze no Yukue)
4. MARY – I will…
5. AKI – 新しい恋のかたち (Atarashii Koi no Katachi)
6. MELL – 美しく生きたい (Utsukushiku Ikitai)
7. AKI – Sweet ～恋しくて～ (Sweet ～Koishikute～)
8. R.I.E – 季節の雫 (Kisetsu no Shizuku)
9. MIKI -Dream to new world
10. AKI – One small day
11. MARY – Cross talk
12. 彩菜 – 風の辿り着く場所 (Kaze no Tadoritsuku Basho)
13. 島みやえい子 (Eiko Shimamiya) – Last regrets -X’mas floor style-
While the I’ve brand was first established in 1998, it wasn’t until Kazuya Takase’s contributions to 1999’s Hakidame -TRASH- (吐溜 -TRASH-, romanization’s accuracy questionable) that the brand actually became worth noting. Spinning a well-known Bemani sample over a collage of horror-movie samples with the game’s opening theme “FUCK ME” and marking a promising debut for vocalist MELL on game closer “Utsukushii Ikitai”, Takase’s upstart production group quickly caught the attention of many an eroge producer and less than a year from Hakidame’s release he already had enough material to fill up a compilation album – and thus, “regret” was born.
As is frequently the case with first efforts, regret is incredibly awkward in retrospect. The album’s 13 songs were all recorded in 1999 but sound thoroughly ’93 – cheesy canned string samples and terrible drum machines are abundant, and the muzak synthesizers don’t really help manners any – but one has to take into account the fact that Takase was fresh out of producing for Japan’s numerous Dancemania compilations when he made these songs, and compared to his compatriots the music on regret sounds practically next-generation.
The most interesting aspect of the I’ve Girls Compilation albums is being able to trace the evolution of I’ve through the years, and with regret one is able to hear exactly what made I’ve so special right from the beginning. The recordings themselves are horribly dated (if you thought FLOW was embarrassing, know that it has nothing on most of this stuff), but past the cheesy synths one has to be impressed at Takase’s superb choice of vocalists right from the beginning (AKI, MELL and Ayana were three of the best vocalists in Japanese electronica, and while their best performances were yet to come they still impress on regret), as well as the ear for melody that would eventually lead to such masterful hooks as those in songs like Re-sublimity and Real Onigokko. Similarly interesting is the debut of Eiko Shimamiya, tucked in at the very end of the album. The ridiculous “X’mas floor” version of Kanon opening theme Last regrets was as inauspicious as debuts come, and it’s hard to believe that the same woman who recorded that would later be making songs like Naraku no Hana.
Overall, regret is a tricky album. While it’s hard to deny its historical importance for I’ve and it does contain a few great tracks (FUCK ME, Last regrets and Kisetsu no Shizuku in particular stand out), musically there’s nothing on regret that wasn’t done much better on later volumes of the I’ve Girls Compilation series.