THE MELODY OF DUST by Hot Sugar
Genre: Instrumental Hip Hop
Favorite Tracks: “Plasma,” “Dove’s Blood,” “Coffin in the Clouds,” “I first heard the melody from within the womb”
Hot Sugar’s latest beat tape arrives at an odd time. The Tumblr.-savvy producer’s newest release, THE MELODY OF DUST, comes at the same time that Bandcamp vs. Soundcloud memes are taking over the internet. Hot Sugar is the moniker of Nick Koenig, a producer and artist whose trademark sound emerged in 2011 with the release of his excellent beat tape, MUSCLE MILK. Koenig’s trademark sound is characterized by a mix of organic samples that are modelled into instruments and crystal clear synthesizers that would not sound out of place on the latest Migos album. Though Hot Sugar’s music exists within a very specific niche, in his six years as an artist, Koenig has made a huge impact on the Tumblr. trap scene, working with artists from Das Racist and publicly courting #kawaii rapper Kitty Pryde at the peak of her relevance. Though Hot Sugar’s persona is certainly notable, the consistent strength of his releases is defined solely by the ingenuity that Hot Sugar employs as a producer.
For an artist whose references are often inspired by the digital age, Hot Sugar’s music is oddly baroque. Instead of making beats, Koenig instead composes genuine music. On the track “I first heard the melody from within the womb,” a drum machine is the only hip hop element on a cut that otherwise employs glistening pianos and whirling synth arpeggios. Though a rapper could certainly rap over the track, it plays like an artistic composition of its own accord. Hot Sugar’s prowess as a composer earns him a seat at the table occupied by some of the most creative producers of our time, such as Shlohmo and Flying Lotus.
Though Hot Sugar’s composition alone is enough to make his music stand out, his production skills are even more impressive. On previous releases, Hot Sugar has been known to masterfully manipulate samples, at one point even turning a rat’s heartbeat into a kick drum. THE MELODY OF DUST is Hot Sugar’s most synth-heavy release to date. This is ultimately one of the album’s greatest strengths. After five albums of sample heavy compositions, allowing his equally exceptional synthesizer modelling to carry the album makes it Hot Sugar’s freshest release since his 2012 EP, MADE MAN. Hot Sugar’s 2015 release, GOD’S HAND, was technically impressive, but also had a tendency to feel like a continuation of a style that had already been employed on numerous prior releases. By allowing himself to stray subtly from the sonic palette that initially defined his sound, Koenig guaranteed that THE MELODY OF DUST would be a release genuinely worth listening to, even for those who already had an idea of what Hot Sugar would deliver.
The difference in tone is at its best on the album’s second track, “Plasma.” “Plasma” employs an emulated guitar that would not be out of place on a release by Los Angeles wunderkind collective WEDIDIT. The track is a sonic eclipse both wide awake and completely nocturnal.
Though THE MELODY OF DUST is already out in its sonic form, later this April, the album will be released as a virtual reality experience. This will likely enhance the quality of the album, as Hot Sugar’s visuals have always been one of his greatest strengths as an artist. Where Hot Sugar is melodically impressive, his visuals have always been one of his greatest strengths and reasons for acclaim. With the release of the visual album later this month on Steam, Hot Sugar will likely prove THE MELODY OF DUST to be his most impressive and ambitious release.
Though Hot Sugar occupies an eclectic place as trap music’s sketchiest goofball, his music consistently speaks for itself and reveals the authenticity behind Koenig’s internet persona. THE MELODY OF DUST further justifies Koenig’s acclaim, and deserves to break out of the hard-to-reach nook it hides in. Though Hot Sugar’s Instagram feed is cool, he is also one of the most forceful artists making music now, unafraid to blur the lines and create entirely new musical experiences. With the musical strength of THE MELODY OF DUST and the impending release of his visual experience, Hot Sugar will likely achieve new heights in 2017.