Hot Sugar's Cold World

Nick Koenig, aka Hot Sugar, is in a hot mess. Considered a modern-day Mozart, the young electronic musician/producer records sounds from everyday life—from hanging up payphone receivers to Hurricane Sandy rain—and chops, loops and samples them into Grammy Award–nominated beats. He’s living the life every musician dreams of, complete with an internet-phenom girlfriend, rapper/singer “Kitty.” But when she dumps him, Hot Sugar is set adrift. Fleeing to Paris, he tries to regroup, searching for new sounds and a sense of self. Filmmaker Adam Lough mixes scenes of Hot Sugar at work on his vintage recording devices with surprising soul-searching reflections he offers to the camera. As tweets and posts about the broken couple blow up on the internet, Hot Sugar’s road trip presses onward, revealing even more exotic layers of the man and his music. Fun and flash, this lyrical journey offers audiences a fascinating peek into a modern artist’s creative process.


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  • ★★★½ review by Nick on Letterboxd

    makes what I see as a grave structural error towards the end by following what would have been a much more fitting and poignant ending with a Neil deGrasse Tyson interview that goes against the film’s previous rejection of most music documentaries’ approaches to portraying their subject as a musical genius; it allowed Koenig’s talent and genuinely divergent outlook to speak for themselves, and by ending it with a fairly clear-cut conversation with someone who is almost unanimously believed to be a genius — albeit in a much more conventional way — feels like the film, for the first time, acknowledging its belief that Koenig is smarter than you.

    this may read as somewhat negative because of the sour note the movie ends on, but I often ask myself whether or not a musical artist is interesting enough to truly justify a full-length documentary, and Hot Sugar is undoubtedly one of the most unique and alluring artists working today and this is is a gorgeous, offbeat and clip-art heavy illustration of that.

  • ★★★½ review by Adam Patterson on Letterboxd

    Blending nonfiction and philosophical fantasy, director Adam Bhala Lough’s documentary Hot Sugar’s Cold World is more than your typical paint-by-numbers music doc. It’s a deep and satisfying portrait of electronic musician Hot Sugar, someone oft-referred to as a modern-day Mozart. As is his music, this film is a sensory experience that is best suited for a large screen and a loud sound system.

    Nick Koenig, aka Hot Sugar, uses his obsession with sound to craft truly unique compositions, comprised of original, and wholly unconventional, samples he captures throughout his environment. It may be something as simple as throwing a Beanie Baby against the wall, or it may be a more elaborate setup, like having actress Michelle Trachtenberg shove a handful of Pop Rocks in her mouth.

    Full Review: Film Pulse

  • ★★★½ review by Patrick Dunham on Letterboxd

    This warmly lit, candy-tinged, Tumblrized glimpse into the life of one of my favorite creatives out there (Hot Sugar; Nick Koenig) is whimsical in scope and playful in form: I really like what Koenig has to say about mixing bizarre sounds from everyday life into songs. His thoughts behind it are that none of his songs can be replicated due to the unique condition of when and where he recorded their audio. Koenig is also fascinated with the selfishness humanity has in thinking about sound and the strata of sounds which exist far beyond our scope as humans on Earth.

    He proclaims forth the familiar ethos of young revolutionaries seeking to change out the system: out with the old and in with the new. It is an argument that brings to mind the band that Sebastian ends up touring with in La La Land, except that Koenig isn't ambivalent in the least about deconstructing the sanctity of the revered and traditional.

    Plus just getting to see some behind the scenes of collaborating with Kool A.D. was incredible. There's also a conversation about the physics of sound with Neil deGrasse Tyson so this is a wonderful watch if you have heard and are interested in Hot Sugar (it's only .99 to buy on the film's website).

  • ★★★★ review by Jorren Thornton on Letterboxd

    Fascinating, if not a bit precious, view of one person's relationship with music, and how they use it to connect with the world outside them.. Which is to say, not well.

  • ★★★★★ review by BeetleEye66 on Letterboxd

    Made the world feel different.

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