Il Wol Dang @ Assembly Checkpoint

Fringe newcomers Il Wol Dang transport their audience to another dimension with their ethereal style of music

Review by Charlotte Chapman | 29 Aug 2023

As commended by the Seoul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Korean music project Il Wol Dang bring a moment of peace to the otherwise manic final days of the Edinburgh Fringe. Their name is comprised of Korean terms for sun, moon and house, a fitting title for a band whose music transcends definition. As lead vocalist Juhang Lee remarks, they prefer to operate in the space between genres, finding "naturalness in the imbalance" of so many contrasting influences.

Formed of four multi-talented members, Il Wol Dang has a very particular kind of sound. Lee is both lead vocal and wielder of the bamboo flute or daegum, whose sharp, jaunty notes are reminiscent of a pansori singer's enthralling vocal style; similarly, there is an air of the storyteller about their mellow lyrics. Using both modern and traditional instruments, their music exists at the midpoint between past and present, fusing traditional Korean melodies with electronic and even hip-hop sounds to produce a scaled-back, tranquil ambience.

Their songs are mesmerising; some are seductive like Bingle, which captures the feeling of a body swaying after drinking soju. Others are mystical, like My Forest, in which listeners are invited to imagine themselves traversing misty woodlands to a soundtrack of gentle gayageum strumming. This is a group whose every piece contains a contradiction, and the result is truly unique.

And their performance is just as unique and meticulously crafted as their music; the group have clearly gone to many lengths to incorporate elements of Korean culture into their set. They glide across the stage in modern reinterpretations of hanbok, wear theatrical masks for some songs, and dance with fans in the style of buchaechum for others, all of which transforms a simple venue into the perfect setting for their dreamy tracks. This is an hour to escape – an hour of enchantment that any listeners would be lucky to experience.

Il Wol Dang, Assembly Checkpoint, run ended
Follow Il Wol Dang at @ilwoldangband_official