The album's very first note is what could pretty well be a harpsichord, which is a firm declaration of intention if there was ever one: this ride, Ali and Basti seem to be saying, will try to defy any expectations you might have about them. On "Fail Forever," Nicolas Jaar takes the mundane electro-poppish original from When Saints Go Machine and twists it into an oblique slab of otherworldly house you'd imagine folks at the Magic Kingdom chill out to in their Mickey Mouse and Cinderella costumes. The frisky tech house of Deadbeat's "House of Vampires" and "Father Father" from rising producer Julio Bashmore quickly lighten the vibe while imposing a more upfront tech-y sound. From there, Matias Aguayo's playful "So In Love," a 2005 release from Kompakt, comes and puts an end to the mix's first—and most satisfying—section.
Then the mix takes a rather surprising turn (a surprise further amplified by the sloppy technique of the transition) with "Baby Wants to Ride," a tremendously seminal cut. The track is one of house music's most memorable monuments, and its inclusion here is curious: The transition is awkward, the track is obvious and the brothers have already dug through their vinyl boxes on Strictly Tiefschwarz in 2007. It's the same with nearly the entire sequence of "oldies," from Ron & Chez D's frenetic "Untitled" to Kevin Saunderson's lesser known (yet very Inner City-like) "The Groove That Won't Stop" and Gemini's cooler-than-thou hip-house of "Where Do I Go." Even though it's coherent thematically speaking, it makes for a time-warp-like black hole in the very middle of the mix that comes across as dry and didactic. A highlight does come through via MK's anthemic "Burning," but it's too short to leave its mark. Tiefschwarz don't let it on for more than two minutes, while that track's very efficacy came from its groovy repetitiveness.
The mix reemerges from its time-traveling sequence with Isolée's current rework of Manuel Tur's "Most of this Moment": on there, Holly Backler's vocals are highly reverential and offer an effectual nod to the fallible, humane diva signing style of house music's pioneers, and the CD's last third synthesizes all that has come before, as the contemporary (G Strings' propulsive "Images," Hot Creations/Hot Waves-sponsored "Freaky Naughty" by Marc Ashken) blends with the retro (Afro Celt Soundsystem, Romanthony) while the mixing duo takes time to slip one of their own productions in, the smooth "Corporate Butcher."
In the end, what's most unexpected about Watergate 09 is how classically trained and inclined it is overall compared to the series' previous installments: so far entries from the likes of Onur Özer, Konrad Black and Lee Curtis all promoted forward-thinking EDM that comfortably reconciled the wide techno and house contemporary divide while mirroring the famous Berlin club's ethos and stylistic principles. For their participation, Tiefschwarz felt the need to summon house's music major heroes and link the dots between their various influences and interests while teaching a history lesson to the kids. Ali and Basti obviously had carte blanche from the Watergate peeps, and when you are DJs of their stature, it'd be fair to say you can do whatever you feel like. But in the way it deviates from the series' very purpose—at least if you follow the lead given by all of its eight previous entries—the end result is infuriatingly antithetic.