Movie Review: ‘Hot Sugar’s Cold World’

Nick Koenig, also known by his stage name Hot Sugar, isn’t your ordinary DJ. Sure, he makes beats. He spends countless hours alone lurched over a computer sampling sounds and perfecting his craft. But there’s one thing about Nick that’s different from the plethora of other DJ’s out there: he weaves the environment’s natural sounds into his music, crafting tonal patterns that cannot be replicated by music making software. Director Adam Bhala Lough gives viewers an incredibly fascinating look into the mind of a man obsessed with sounds, and using his obsession to create wonderfully unique music.

The film opens with Hot Sugar pouring pop-rocks into his girlfriend Kitty’s mouth. He holds a recorder close to capture each crackle, and he focuses very intently on the sound while he records. This is the life Hot Sugar. New possibilities present themselves each day as he travels around cities with his recorder picking up new, unique natural sounds that he can incorporate into his music. In one scene him and his friend, actor Martin Starr (from Silicon Valley), buy a bunch of fireworks from a man Hot Sugar meets on Craigslist, and they spend the night lighting off each one and carefully recording the noise they make. In another scene, Hot Sugar travels to his grandparent’s home in France and records the sounds of him clanking bones together in the catacombs beneath Paris; a somewhat morbid but impressively interesting idea. Hot Sugar makes his way into caves to record echoes, burns doll houses to record the sound of fire and even records the silence of rooms, which was the most fascinating part of documentary. According to Hot Sugar, just because a room is silent, vibrations still fill the air; humans just can’t pick up on them. His goal is to bring those subtle vibrations to life through his music; he even sits down and meets with world famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to discuss the science of silence, which is as interesting to the viewer as it is for Hot Sugar.

Hot Sugar’s Cold World forces you to pay more attention to the sounds around you. Hot Sugar’s unique outlook on the world of sound that surrounds us all is inspiring. He seems like somewhat of a loner, a gentle artist striving for perfection in a world full of people who don’t seem to appreciate the natural beauty of sound he spends his days inundating himself with. He goes through a breakup with his girlfriend Kitty, which saddens him but also leaves him more time to work. Viewers also meet an elderly man that Hot Sugar bonds with over their love of sounds; he’s a World War 2 veteran named Bill covered from head to toe in tattoos.

The film is scored using Hot Sugar’s music. Random psychedelic graphics pop up here and there, making for a fun and unique viewing experience. As a viewer, you truly understand Hot Sugar’s musical goal: he wants to capture natural sounds to remind us of the beauty that encapsulates us all every day, but we get so caught up in our lives we tend to forget that it exists. So keep doing what you’re doing Hot Sugar, we all need that reminder more often.

Ryan Unger

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