Hot Sugar’s Cold World
23rd April 2000 2.44pm at Rich Mix
Directed by Adam Bhala Lough, Hot Sugar’s Cold World follows Nick Koenig (aka Hot Sugar), a vanguard of “associative music” who travels between New York and Paris, capturing every sound he hears in between.
The fly-on-the-wall documentary’s all-star ensemble includes Jim Jarmusch, Kool AD, and Dr Neil duGrasse Tyson, as well as Koenig’s ex-girlfriend and rapper-come-internet sensation Kitty, but to name a few. The scope and prestige of the cast lays testament to both the talents of the director and the musician himself, whose melancholic and masterful soundtrack unquestionably elevates Hot Sugar’s Cold World into its own unique realm, offering a fascinating look into the processes of a musical maverick of the internet generation.
If the documentary has any kind of catalytic turning point, it is when Koenig, armed with his Zoom recorder, decides to travel to Paris following his breakup with Kitty. The pair’s relationship is well chronicled on the internet, from its conception to its sticky end, as Kitty’s Tumblr post claiming “being single is cool” floats on screen while Nick boards a train to Paris.
The character of Koenig is quite a hard one to untangle; an introverted and laconic individual who seems to find his voice through music and over social media, he is amiable enough. However, pleasure is really derived from watching his musical methods and flashing 8-bit internet GIFs which will be recognisable to every millennial who remembers the pain of dial-up internet. He is also propped up by a host of likable acquaintances who join him to collaborate at different points. Bhala Lough’s cinema verité style and perfect framing also complement the built in soundscape.
Watching the documentary is akin to watching an artist at work and seeing his scrawls become drawings, and his drawings become masterpieces. The audience sees Koenig record just about everything he can, from the clunking of skulls at the Parisian catacombs, to the dust flying off his grandfather’s tomb, to kids crying and sauces sizzling in pans. He is obsessed, too, with recording different kinds of silences in an attempt to “capture the beauty of the world” that is often overlooked.
Whether one of Hot Sugar’s many obsessive fans or just someone who takes the Barthian stance of removing the master from his work, the film is as aurally pleasing as it is aesthetically. Is Koenig the “modern Mozart” as people claim? Who knows. But he is a damn good musician.
Hot Sugar’s Cold World does not have a UK release date yet.