Neo Gibson invented a world and proceeded to flood it. In their antediluvian phase—around 2015, when they swapped the early alias Neo Petal for 7038634357, their phone number—they infused techno and hardstyle with the breaking-glass samples and cinematic effects of the era’s experimental club music. By 2019’s stormy Swallow, the drums had vanished, but trance’s outline remained visible beneath waves of distorted arpeggios. Fast forward to 2021’s murky, sonar-pinging Permanest: Its nine turbid tracks might as well have been recorded inside a diving bell sunk deep in the seafloor. It’s as if the broad sweep of the discography was meant to play out like Gavin BryarsThe Sinking of the Titanic.

Taken together, Gibson’s dozen or so releases form a continuum. Little by little, from record to record, their music’s structure has undergone a gradual process of dematerialization—beats dissolved, synths turned to liquid, edges melted into a muted ambient slurry. Across this long arc, Gibson has seemed to ask: How much pressure can you apply to a sound without rendering it unrecognizable? How much damage can you pile on without destroying the beauty of a thing?

Their latest release, and first for Blank Forms Editions, the publishing arm of the New York arts nonprofit, is a particularly placid—well, mostly placid—snapshot from deep in the octopus’ garden. Neo Seven is consistent in mood with last year’s Oval-esque Electric, which paired gently glitching sinewave etudes with sweetly robotic singing. But here, those slightly chilly computer tones have been replaced by warm synths with a steady tremolo pulse.

Like its predecessor, Neo Seven is less a collection of songs than a theme and variations. Virtually every track utilizes the same set of chords and the same synth patch—a soft and wheezy sound that might be an ’80s Casio’s idea of a flute, with varying degrees of digital abrasion applied. In the opening “Winded” and “Everytime,” the synths are topped by a faint corona of distortion—an almost crinkly sound, suggesting the muffled high end on a lossy MP3. “Acolyte” is shrill and garbled, with all the bass filtered out and the treble frequencies foaming with static. “Square Heart,” in contrast, leaves just a faint dusting of dirt, playing up the uncanny smoothness of the digitally processed voice singing dulcet cybernetic lullabies.

Beneath the seeming stasis of the music, sneaky metamorphoses are afoot, though you need to pay close attention to pick up on them: The differences between tracks, and the developments within them, are so minute as to be almost unnoticeable. “Winded” begins with an undulating gust of wind that gradually takes on tone color, like a darkened countryside soaking up the dawn. In “Overbraid,” trance gates take the place of the previous tracks’ rhythmic tremolo, perforating held chords with tiny silences. In “Square Heart,” sub-bass pulses cut against the bobbing rhythm, creating an unsettling counterpoint whose effects are more intuited than perceived. That subtle air of unease is central to this music: Like Burial, Gibson makes music that feels simple on the surface—wistfully nostalgic, with imagistic titles and childlike themes—yet harbors more ambiguous emotions in its hidden depths. (Gibson’s self-presentation, often appearing with spoons stuck to their face like some surreal form of chain mail, doesn’t reveal much.)

Sometimes the unease isn’t subtle at all. Halfway through the opening track, just as you’ve made peace with the idea that no major developments are in store, Gibson thrusts a new sound into the mix. It’s bolder, thick and resonant, like a titanium bow scraping across a ship’s hull. The chord fades to silence, and then, bam: It returns as a massively overdriven blast of digital distortion, a blackened juggernaut of Ben Frost proportions—grinding, serrated, throwing sparks. The leap in decibels is enough to send you lunging for the volume control. The same trick happens again in the closing “Perfect Night,” where a placid chord explodes into ear-splitting noise. The din continues until the very end, when Gibson’s lonely robot voice rises from the depths once more—a goodnight kiss, a benediction. These shifts don’t so much break the mood as intensify it, opening new dimensions for hard-to-define feelings to take shape.

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7038634357: Neo Seven