SXSW15 Review – Hot Sugar’s Cold World (2015)


Hot Sugar's Cold World

Hot Sugar is Nick Koenig, a New York based musician and artist who has developed a process of constructing music taken from his own field recordings.  At the beginning of the film we learn about Nick, his unique processes and his slightly morbid obsession of wanting to capture the sound of silence in a mortuary room with a dead body.  We also learn about Nick’s relationship with Youtube star and rapper Kitty (previously Kitty Pryde). The couple are “internet famous” and plagued by fans hounding them on twitter about their relationship, which puts pressure on the couple.

After the couple break up at SXSW, Nick is heartbroken and takes off to Paris to spend time alone at his grand mothers house. Whilst in Paris Nick wallows and gets philosophical, as one does when they’ve been through a break up.  He takes solace in stepping out in his grand mother’s fur coat, armed with his trusty digital recorder to visit his grand mothers grave and the Paris Catacombs.

After Paris, Nick heads to Los Angeles where he goes on a date to the birth place of the internet with comedy writer Shelby Fero  and buys illegal fireworks with Freaks and Geek’s Martin Starr. On returning to New York, the film goes full circle and Nick is able to capture that requested silence, but only if he can get a ride off a stranger from Twitter to his friend’s funeral.

All along the way Nick is constantly sampling. The way that Nick sets up these sampling projects is grandious to the self entitled. From pretending to buy a $90,000 piano to be able to sample it, to ceremoniously burning a vintage dolls house to breaking into the Paris Catacombs to sample bones hitting skulls. Nothing is done by halves, and there’s no real consequences of his actions. However, even though these are the actions of a self-entitled rich kid, Nick doesn’t really comes across in that way and there’s something quite interesting about his approach which makes the film watchable. He also has a wry humour and the interactions between himself and Martin Starr are particularly entertaining.

The only thing I would say is that the musical results from these recordings are not as spectacular as the story. His musique concrete electronica is pretty but he’s not the “modern day Mozart” which SXSW used to describe the film. Nick has interesting ideas and concepts, but they’re not that new or particularly advanced in the musical theory world. However it is interesting to see how a younger musician with modern references is using the sampling music concept and making a story out of it.

From the film’s opening scene with Hot Sugar ceremoniously recording the sound of pop rocks popping in a blue lipstick clad hipster girl’s mouth, the film is well constructed, visually aware and looks and feels great. With art direction from Nick himself, the film has a instagram filtered feel to it, and features a number of music videos compiled by Nick of 80’s and 90’s imagery peppered throughout the scened to give musical interludes.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Nick before watching the film, but had been drawn to watch it in the hope we’d see Martin Starr rap in it (sadly he doesn’t). I enjoyed the film, it’s well constructed, and though the story may not be earth shattering, it’s funny and entertaining and it’s worth spending an hour and a half in Hot Sugar’s cold world.


Alice Hubley

Genre: Documetary, Music Venue: SXSW15 Rating:TBA Running Time: 87 mins Director: Adam Bhala Cast: Nick Koenig, Shelby Fero, Martin Starr, Jim Jarmusch

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