You'd imagine enjoying At Ease in lots of casual, summery settings: Sunday barbecues, rooftop get-togethers, or, as the video for "Could Be The Look" suggests, a walk in the park. The music has lots of light and air, which DiMaggio gets across in a couple ways. The focal point on many tracks is DiMaggio's keyboard, whose funk contortions give them a sense of space that straightforward melodic loops wouldn't. The other elements are fairly simple: drums, pads, a vocal sample and an extra instrument (like the flute on "All Good (Jazz Mix)"). Though DiMaggio's playing shines on "Fairview Jam," the drums occupy a key supporting role. The syncopation has an elusive depth, which helps impart a subtly disorienting feel—just when you think you've sussed out the order of things, DiMaggio's free-flowing keys change course, though not so much that he loses his way.
Before At Ease, Will DiMaggio had only released one track under his given name. (In 2013, he was producing under an alias, Jaw Jam, whose R&B-sampling garage swing had sharper, synthetic edges.) "Fusion (Broadcast Mix)," a single-sided vinyl released in 2016, was an unlikely anthem. Its sing-song vocal sample was catchy and immediate, but the music supporting it was understated, organic and, as it unspooled, surprisingly complex. Once "Fusion (Broadcast Mix)"'s vocal fell away midway through, it dissolved into a spacious shell of funk improv and light techno chords, as if turning into a dub of itself. At Ease's tracks aren't always as cunning. The filtered vocal loop on "Steppin W Friends" is stubbornly ever-present. "O God Dam (Sus Mix)" is almost great, but the drowsy low-end and tape-hiss saturation take up a little too much room.
Some might also get hung up about the album's consistent emotional register, which mostly toggles between "easygoing" and "happy." That makes At Ease an unusual record. It sidesteps the bittersweet moods heard on many well-loved house tracks, from Larry Heard-inspired classics to more recent lo-fi anthems, but in doing so seems no less authentic, a quality often ascribed to music that rouses mixed feelings. At its most joyful, the album is pure pleasure. With another catchy vocal at its centre, "Ooze Mix," along with its crooked trills, slides and chords, is a sloppy treat. "All Good (Jazz Mix)"'s acrobatic flute naturally stands out, but DiMaggio uses some nice punctuation—the "uhs" and "yeahs," the hissing hats—to draw the ear elsewhere. We get glimpses of other modes on the LP's last two tracks. "For T"'s shy techno, worked over with by-now familiar keyboard runs, is a brief delight. Whenever "Could Be The Look"'s melody hits a downbeat note, wailing chord harmonies reach over in a consoling gesture, and from there things recline into a lovely ambient fog. When At Ease unwinds, so will you.