Balls Deep

A tale of Andhim and Super Flu

...and all that could have been, or all that never was.

Once upon a time, yours truly was very into good vibes. Fortunately, this was before the atrocious acronym “E.D.M.” even existed; prior to the Imperialist American Pig’s (I.A.P., if you’re actually into acronyms) discovery of what we simply call “Dance music” over here in Europe. Dance was still real, and it didn’t come with forty-seven LED screens, lasers, confetti, a piranha, or an arena full of cunts. At some point soon, we Snobs will pay heed to our perspective on the Dance genre, including recognition of both its titans and its bright lights. However, in the interim, it’s time to draw your attention to a then little-known German duo named Andhim (who are now relatively ‘big’), and their buddies, Super Flu.

It’s 2012. Earth is essentially Utopia: Barack Obama is close to being declared the second coming of Christ, Britain is having a great time in Europe, it feels like the Great Recession is going to end, and Germany is finally getting the recognition it deserves for its best export since BMW: the Underground House DJ.

Tracking this explosive scene as an insatiable, club and festival-attending reprobate, SoundCloud was an exciting platform to spend time on (now it would be ‘Lil AnDDDhimX’ and ‘$$$uper FluUu’), and it was late into one cold winter’s night, during a SoundCloud binge, that I was introduced to ‘Super House’.

The track in question was Reeves from the EP of the same name, by a certain Andhim and Super Flu. Right from the first pop and snap of the opening bars, there was an immediacy and warmth to this music that I hadn’t heard elsewhere, propelling the song forward, yet wrapping you more tightly into an idyllic cocoon until the inevitable Drop. I felt excited and alive, and continue to view Reeves as one of my all-time favourite Dance tracks. You can put this assertion to the test at any house party; queue Reeves up and watch the entire energy of the room change over nine short minutes. There is a latent happiness and optimism buried deep within this song that is so compelling, it draws the same emotions out of you and those around you when played. Particularly in a live setting. Truly, I thought to myself, this Super House is something.

So, you listen to Reeves and you’re like “OK, Cuzomano, I’ll give it to you – that’s a pretty banging Dance track, but so what?” You see, Dance music is challenging because for most people it’s all about the live experience and the disco biscuits, but that isn’t the case with this EP. These feisty Germans did ‘a good.’ Immediately following Reeves is the fantastically-named Scuzzlebutt. Featuring more of Super Flu’s wonderful production skills, the plethora of sonic oddities on aural display bounce majestically atop what I assume to be an Andhim-delivered beat, building to a delightfully minimal break approximately halfway through the track that serves to step-up the mood a bit further towards euphoria. A short while into this second half of this mix, I hope you are beginning to understand how fucking fresh Super House sounds – this House really is Super, and at this point it’s nearly seven years old. I’m writing this on a plane and I’m fairly sure that my neighbours think I’m convulsing – but I’m not convulsing; I’m dancing. In my plane seat. It’s not easy to explain.

Wunkel is admittedly the least exciting track on the EP, although its bass line may get under your skin, into your blood and take hold of your muscles, forcing you to bop your shoulders against your will. However, it’s EP closer, Hasoweh, that merits additional focus.

The greatest Dance and Electronic artists understand that, just as with their more analogue brethren, albums and coherence are important. John Hopkins understands this; Jamie xx definitely does; HVOB do; Daniel Avery did with his first album (before becoming incomprehensibly dull) – The Last Song Ever Written and Knowing We’ll Be Here, by the last two aforementioned artists, respectively, are some of the greatest closing tracks to Dance LPs that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Hasoweh does not reach these heights, but it has the makings to do so. After almost twenty-five minutes of pounding Dance music, Andhim and Super Flu successfully bring you back down to Earth at a carefully-crafted pace that leaves you neither too pumped nor too sad. Super House is slowed to a calm pacifier that simultaneously demonstrates these four Germans not only understand their craft, but also that their self-proclaimed Super House is more than a one-trick (or beat) pony. Indeed, the Reeves EP features four tracks (excluding the alternate ‘Girl Version’ of Scuzzlebutt, which of course you should also listen to), and three of the four tracks can be confidently declared great. Lying in bed at god-knows-what time in the morning when I first heard this EP, I had to learn more about the enigmatic Andhim and Super Flu.

Helping you stay ahead of the curve by briefly summarising for you, Andhim comprise Simon Haehnel and Tobias Mueller, two Köln natives who began as Hip-Hop-loving turntable scratchers and met at a sausage-eating contest before becoming the great friends and eponymous DJ pair we praise today.

Super Flu are Feliks Thielemann and Mathias Schwarz, two rather more enigmatic Germans heralding from Halle (Saale), promising, in their own words, “to connect tradition and modern electronic music in terms of vitality and joy of life. Thereby, it always remains elementary to satisfy the user’s claim in quality […] Super Flu‘s acoustic art takes musically a step forward – and still it remains techno with more than just one level! Details, breaks, structures, substance, background. Music for a journey between two scenes on Earth – and four speakers in a club.” (It sounds deep, even if the English is a little broken).

At the time of discovering Reeves, my mind had focussed on the name Andhim (there was also far less to find on Super Flu back then). I soon learned that Andhim’s breakthrough single was in fact a track called Hausch (I’m ignoring the Wine and Chocolates mix; it’s great, but that track is neither Super House, nor the focus of this piece). Here, one can hear the maturing of Super House as a sound, although I must confess to finding the genre its most potent when Simon and Toby are working with Feliks and Mathias. Nevertheless, I dived deeper. It turns out – and I think it’s even clearer in the bleak light of 2019 – that Andhim were smashing it over the course of 2010 to 2013, releasing seven EPs that each contain at least one rock-solid dance track, respectively. Those I would particularly draw you attention to are Wallace (2012) and The Wizard of Us (2013, where the track Hausch can be found). Wallace in particular contained the track Walkmen, which was accompanied by the below music video, cementing Andhim in young Cuzomano’s mind as an act I both had to follow and see live.

Simultaneously, as I continued to dive into Andhim, Super Flu released their debut album, Halle Saale, a reference to their eponymous hometown.

Throughout the course of this voyage of Super House discovery, Super Flu remained (and still do) the more mysterious of the quartet, with slightly more bizarre promotional material and fan engagement. Where Andhim’s Instagram (back when Social Media was less suicide porn and terrorism, and more fun and friends) joked about eating sausages and previewed snippets from live performances the world over, Super Flu’s would contain stranger videos of the quartet synchronised swimming with an elderly gentleman, Opa Herbert (Feliks of Super Flu’s grandfather). What was also quite apparent was that the Super Flu chaps really were good friends with the Andhim duo, showing up in each other’s videos, giggling like teenagers. This mystique was alluring, and I found myself spending a considerable amount of time with Super Flu’s album – more, in fact, that I had been spending with Andhim’s various EPs.

Returning to both artists some years later, I remain convinced that Super Flu are the more talented, more interesting artists – and their more contemporary tracks are testament to that (see the recently released Bongbeat, for example, which nearly made it onto AVDIO B-SIDES).

Super Flu are also behind the Monaberry imprint (through which all these spectacular early releases first saw public light, and which also has a pretty spectacular podcast). Halle Saale opener, Fibi Maybe is another of my all-time favourite dance tracks, and both Raptor and Krupp Oboe are some of the most interesting popular House music I’ve heard without going too experimental (to be addressed in another post, Nicolas Jaar).

What I find so captivating about Super Flu is their production – it has a crisp clarity to it, whilst simultaneously crafting multi-layered soundscapes that create a substantial, unique atmosphere I’ve yet to see replicated or hear elsewhere from another act. That the duo also compose a lot of their own music renders it all the more compelling, especially given our snobbish tendency to value musicianship and artistic skill above all else.

It was then, in 2015, that a dream came true. Super Flu and Andhim were to play together at London’s XOYO (for a Bugged Out! night, no less).

You can imagine my excitement – almost perfectly-timed, I had at this point an absurdly detailed knowledge of both artists’ repertoires and had devoured numerous recordings of live sets and podcasts in hopeful anticipation of seeing them in the flesh.

They did not disappoint.

I vividly recall arriving early and patiently waiting through the support set, moving to the bar and buying a handful of beers before hearing the insanely distinctive synth hook from Fibi Maybe ring out throughout XOYO’s darkened room. Spinning around, there were Super Flu, opening the set, with Simon and Toby of Andhim smiling and dancing behind. I rushed forward to the front in jubilant euphoria. What followed was a supreme tour de force in both live House music and co-musicianship. I was distracted by how much fun I was having and have little to document this event beyond the following picture:

The single, pathetic photo I managed to take of one of the best dance nights I’ve been to.

Together, both DJs ripped through every song you could have possibly wanted to hear, played to a crowd that contained a decent number of in-the-know fans. Alter Egon’s infectious, bass-laden vocal hook caused me to bust moves I didn’t even know I had in me; Reeves made a screech-inducing appearance, and Hausch closed out the night for a Cuzomano, arms-aloft, effusive in praise.

Another very distinct memory is of looking at these four friends doing their thing and thinking they genuinely looked like they were having the time of their life, too. In truth, when you see Andhim live today, they still do. There’s something quite special about the Andhim and Super Flu crew – indeed, Andhim have now, like Super Flu, somewhat officialised things, creating the Superfriends record label, and frequently performing at the likes of ADE with their own mini-stages showcasing just them and their pals (now extended to include more acts than just Super Flu and themselves). Super Flu and Andhim likewise continue to occasionally perform together, and Solomon (all hail!) is known to make guest appearances, although this brings me onto my final point – one that is somewhat bittersweet.

Where Andhim and Super Flu pioneered a sound in Super House that had a genuine vivacity and freshness to it, and Andhim’s stellar social media game, combined with top-notch live performances at intelligently-selected venues, led to substantial fame within their scene, Andhim quickly turned into a group that was incessantly touring (this does not appear to have stopped, five-odd years later). Andhim’s own music has come to reflect the exposure the pair are having to constant Dance festivals: their music has long-since begun to sound less Super and more like everyone else. Come roughly 2016, yours truly had genuinely begun to lose interest in Andhim, although my curiosity for Super Flu remains (albeit tempered, as I’m a bit hungrier for a decent guitar music hero these days). Gone is the bright, carefree optimism of Super House, as Andhim tracks increasingly draw heavily on repetitive bass and less of the intelligent, bright, crisp and euphoric production of the past. I do suspect that part of this is that collaborations with Super Flu have necessarily fallen off a cliff as Simon and Toby are always on the road, or maybe it speaks to my finding Super Flu the more interesting artists as time continues to march on, as Feliks and Mathias have veered towards more experimental paths.

This brings me to the crux of this post, and why it is titled “a tale” – for a brief moment in time, four friends came together and made some genuinely innovative, fun and inspiring Dance music that didn’t take itself too seriously but also had the whole-hearted ability to pull a crowd together in shared enjoyment. Part of me hopes Andhim and Super Flu find the time to pair up again and release a full-length LP after going back to experimenting in flats between Köln and Halle again, but another part of me thinks that the Reeves EP in particular is special specifically because it was a moment in time, unspoiled by further attempts to replicate the same successful formula. Maybe the guys knew they’d pulled a rabbit out the hat, and weren’t sure they could do it again? At this stage, seven years later, who knows?

What I do know, and what you should know, is that these four friends – Simon, Toby, Feliks and Mathias – created some spectacularly fun House music over a three to four-year period, pioneering a genre they were confident enough in to name themselves, and introducing a handful of music fans such as myself to a particularly communal part of the German Dance music scene.

I continue to track artists coming out of the Halle arena, or those attached to Super Flu’s Monaberry imprint. One of the most rewarding Dance music podcasts I have come across is From Halle With Love, where I long-ago discovered a then-unknown act, Perel, who released her debut LP, Hermetica last year. As is becoming a (deliberate) recurrent message on Audio Snobbery now, when you discover something you like, it is worth diving in and seeing which threads you want to tug on.

To-date, I know very few people who are aware of this thriving sub-sector of German Dance, but you all should – and we can thank Andhim and Super Flu for bringing attention to it.