respectfulchild explores the parallels between their violin and personal identity, diving into gender dichotomies and the journey of self-discovery through music.
On their second full-length release, 更新 re:new, respectfulchild 敬兒 set out to compose a suite of movements that creates a parallel relationship with their musical instrument—the violin—and their own body. As the respectfulchild explains, their classical music training becomes a direct metaphor for the gender binary forced on them since birth. Exploring these questions of unlearning and relearning around what was taught and indoctrinated to them from an early age and without their choosing, 更新 re:new is strikingly personal and open-ended even as it traverses respectfulchild’s personal and professional trajectory. All of its sounds and textures are just them and their instrument, yet somehow, they capture the interactions, relationships, and disappointments that ultimately make us who we are.
A brief overture (“assignment”) sets their intention, featuring a swelling string quartet that dissolves into a slow, mournful drone that sets us adrift in the fog and fear (“lost”). The first signs of melody and musical throughlines (“trepid”) are tentative, anxious, and prone to falling apart at the gentlest of suggestions, indicative of that feeling when you intuitively know that you are not who or what others think you are. That sense of unease and uncertainty then begins to advance and retreat, becoming stronger and fiercer with each subsequent wave (“storm”). The unpredictability of this beastly rumble eventually leads to a discrete loop (“still”) that introduces a break in the clouds, a recalibration. Far from finding oneself settled, tension begins percolating ominously (“bubble”) as pessimism and optimism engage in a tug of war. Spoiler alert: pessimism wins.
As such, the lines and fabric that hold our physical and spiritual selves together begin tearing, consumed by a darkening night that feels endless and inescapable (“turmoil”). Eventually, the darkness ignites from a tiny spark of friction into a controlled yet intense inferno (“fine”), upending all semblance of normality and safety (“destruction”). The only way forward is to begin forging a new identity and embark on a new path, reclaiming the bruises and scars of the past as badges of honour (“restart”). No less chaotic, but feeling more purposeful and conscious of the consequences of our actions, we are delivered onto a vast stretch of possibility and autonomy (“beauty”).
I have had the benefit of hearing 更新 re:new as a set of discrete songs and as a single continuous opus, and while there is nothing fundamentally different between the two, I often felt as if I was committing some sort of sacrilegious crime when playing the album track by track, knowing that respectfulchild intended for it to be experienced whole. Yet, it’s not lost on me that for so many of us, though time is a linear progression, our experiences are anything but. You can’t isolate times of questioning, moments of pain, and living with uncertainty; they melt and blend into one another and are often interrupted by pauses and moments of silence that ultimately allow us to deconstruct and contemplate how and when we’ll emerge on the other side. Whether you choose to dip in and out or embrace its epic nature all in one sitting, respectfulchild’s 更新 re:new will leave you forever changed if you let it.