Second volume in the I’ve Girls Compilation series, the 2-disc monster “verge” is rightfully viewed by many a fan as when Kazuya Takase really started coming into his own as a producer/songwriter.
Various – I’ve Girls Compilation vol. 2: verge (2000, Visual Art’s)
1. MAKO – bite on the bullet -under mellow style-
2. AKI – Grow me
3. R.I.E – Take me high
4. MELL – Fall in Love
5. AKI – Take on your will
6. 島みやえい子 (Eiko Shimamiya) – Dreamer
7. 島みやえい子 – Now and heaven
8. AKI – Pure Heart ～世界で一番アナタが好き～ (Sekai de Ichiban Anata ga Suki)
9. MAKO – treating 2U -wrap up style-
10. Lia – 鳥の詩 -short ver.- (Tori no Uta)
11. MAKO – Never forget this time
12. MELL & MIKI – 空より近い夢 (Sora Yori Chikai Yume)
1. 彩菜 (Ayana) – freak of nature : start
2. 島みやえい子 – 氷結の夜 (Hyouketsu no Yoru)
3. AKI – RIDE
4. AKI – Two face
5. 彩菜 – freak of nature : end
6. 島みやえい子 – Around the mind
7. SHIHO – Days of promise
8. 彩菜 – uneasy
9. 彩菜 – Discrimination
10. 島みやえい子 – ガラスの月 (Garasu no Tsuki)
11. 島みやえい子 – verge
For what it was worth, “regret”, Kazuya Takase’s first compilation album released under the I’ve Sound label (reviewed by yours truly right here) was a better album for what it had the potential to be than for what it actually was. Therefore, when looking at its follow-up “verge”, it would seem best to think of verge as the fulfillment of Takase’s promise; on verge every problem that regret had is fixed, everything that was done right expanded upon.
Most noticeable of the improvements (and one that unfortunately never resurfaced as the compilation series grew stricter in structure through the later installments) made for the second time around was that Takase approached the structuring of verge as an album, not a compilation – a distinction that’s certainly worth more than a few split hairs. Throughout both of the album’s unusually listenable discs, the feeling of an album is solidified through the inclusion of a number of original songs (and re-recorded eroge tracks for when the originals didn’t suit the album); perhaps most notably the two-part “freak of nature”, the second disc’s mostly-instrumental hard trance introduction. Even without any eroge connection or even any lyrics to speak of, the song provides a better introduction for the second, harder disc than any of the eroge tracks. It’s an awesome bit of music, and its inclusion on verge was a playful stroke of genius on Takase’s part.
Not that the eroge tracks aren’t top-notch as well, however. Tori no Uta, AIR opening theme, beloved vocalist Lia’s debut and I’ve’s first real “breakout hit” (Last regrets was fairly popular in its own right, but never achieved the sort of rabid devotion as Tori no Uta has sustained over the years), is here, albeit in an abridged version – and enough really can’t be said about the other songs. If I had to single out a single song for praise above all the rest, however, I would have to pick Eiko Shimamiya’s “Around the mind”. Opening theme for Software House Parsley’s “Phantom Knight: Mugen no Meikyuu 2”, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to suggest Around the mind as the song on which Eiko Shimamiya changed from the last-minute inclusion she was on regret into the talent who would later go on to produce all those excellent Higurashi themes I can’t stop raving about. Shimamiya’s performance on the track is married perfectly to Takase’s vaguely urban production (which manages to work hip-hop vocal samples into the mix without sounding forced, somehow) and makes the song unforgettable – and after songs like Around the mind, it really was no surprise that Shimamiya was given the title track for verge.
Shimamiya wasn’t the only vocalist coming into prominence on verge, however. While the lineup remained otherwise unchanged from regret (excepting Lia’s aforementioned introduction and one-time I’ve girl MARY’s quick dismissal sometime before verge’s release), I’ve stalwart SHIHO made her debut on verge with the song “Days of promise”. While it wouldn’t be until I’ve Girls Compilation volume 4 (LAMENT) that the full I’ve Special Unit would appear on one album, SHIHO’s presence in the lineup makes 3 of the original 7 I’ve Special Unit girls present.
But it wasn’t just the lineup for the vocalists that was starting to change around with verge. While the album still undoubtedly belongs to Takase, a few of verge’s songs found him receiving help (whether with lyrics, composition or arrangement) from fellow eroge-music producers Tomoyuki Nakazawa and Atsuhiko Nakatsubo, and late-album highlight Garasu no Tsuki was never touched by Takase’s hand at all – the song’s production credits are solely Nakazawa’s, the first song in the I’ve Girls compilation series without the I’ve founder’s stamp on it. While still a ways away from the diverse production lineup we know I’ve for now, verge showed Takase starting to loosen the reins and accept the idea of a collective, an important step in the evolution of the brand from what it was in 1999 to what it is now.
However, the album’s brilliance is one of those things that gets bittersweet in retrospect. Even by the time volume 3 of the compilation series had come out, the flagrantly illegal willy-nilly sampling (horror films, rap songs, what-have-you) that made regret and a few songs on verge so much fun had pretty much gone the way of the dodo, and the vocalists who made verge such an amazing experience would similarly disappear not too long afterwards, either through moving on to other projects (Lia) or simply buggering off entirely (Ayana, MIKI, and most tragically the wonderful AKI). I’ve history can be broken down into a few distinct eras, and verge represents both the beginning of I’ve as we know it as well as the end of crazy dance producer Takase. Yes, he still keeps many of the quirks that characterized his production on verge to this day (he’s made maybe 2 or 3 tracks in his life not drowned in those trademark synthesized strings of his), but in shaking off the Dancemania influences it’s hard to deny that something was lost in the process. Maybe it’s the sense of humour present in verge and so dreadfully absent from any releases afterwards (come on, would he really do anything like Freak of nature these days?), maybe it’s the fact that letting go of the control-freak desire to have the compilations all to himself got him slipping into laziness as a producer, who knows. Either way, the man who made verge never would have made BLAZE. He never would have made Re-sublimity or Red fraction either, though, so an argument could easily be made for his radical style change being an improvement – but, good or bad, one thing that’s for sure is that there isn’t going to be another verge.