Thought Trials
New Music

Oligo: Josh Martin’s Soundtrack to Survival – new atmospheric post rock from THOUGHT TRIALS

7 mins read

Josh Martin of Thought Trials is back with a new album, “This Has Always Been With You,” to be released by Post. Recordings on May 17, 2024. After a harrowing personal journey through brain cancer diagnosis and treatment, Martin channels his experience into eight tracks that are less about survival than about the stark realizations of life’s fragility.

The single “Oligo” encapsulates the essence of his ordeal, delivering an exploration of his battle with cancer, framed by the emotional and physical chaos it wrought.

Each track, including “Palinopsia,” “Dendro,” “Glioma,” and others on the album, are intertwined with the personal milestones of his diagnosis and treatment, offering listeners a deeply personal soundscape.

The entire album was self-written and performed, with Martin also handling the mixing, while mastering was done by Jason Sissoyev. Matt Payton’s photography and Sal Mastrocola’s design wrap the album in a visual context as compelling as its audio counterpart.

Thought Trials

This release follows Martin’s intense period of creativity sparked by his condition, a testament to his resolve to create amidst adversity.

For fans of bands like Caspian and If These Trees Could Talk, Martin’s new work promises a journey through the nuances of post-rock and ambient soundscapes, reflecting both turmoil and the sporadic beauty found in moments of clarity.

In an attached full interview, Martin discusses shifting his musical direction towards a clearer, more resonant sound, diverging from his previous heavier tones without sacrificing depth. He also touches on how his life-threatening condition has reshaped his perspective on life and music, urging a more daring and experimental approach in his compositions.

“This Has Always Been With You” is a chronicle of survival, a soundtrack to a life interrupted yet intensely lived.

Congratulations on your latest album release with Post. Recordings! Can you tell us a bit about the musical direction and influences for ‘This Has Always Been With You’?

Thank you! I’ve been a fan of the music and spirit that Post. Recordings curates for a while now and I’m absolutely honored to be a part of the roster. After I finished my last full length (Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing) I took a little break as I usually do after a larger release. Writing, recording and mixing everything on my own can take a bit out of me. I knew I would be doing another full-length and I knew I wanted to take it in a different musical direction. FOSAF,SN got quite heavy and dirty at times, and I didn’t want to make the same album twice. When I started writing This Has Always Been With You I set out with the intention of creating something that sounded a bit cleaner and clearer, while still having a serious tone that gets “heavy” without drop tuned guitars and high-gain amps.

What has been your main source of inspiration when composing the tracks for this album?

The major inspiration for these songs has been writing music that asks questions about mortality and the impermanence of all things in the world – without lyrics and written language to assist. I choose each note carefully and only select the ones that spark a sense of wonder or contemplation in me. Music is a very personal experience, but hopefully the listener shares some of the same moments.

Thought Trials

Moving into the theme of the album, it reflects some profound personal experiences. Can you share what sparked the creation of this album?

After my debut full-length in early 2022, I took a breather and wasn’t writing much for Thought Trials. That changed in August 2022 when I had an MRI done. That day they discovered a tumor in my brain, it was brain cancer.

The next few weeks were the most terrifying of my life. Multiple surgeons telling me it is inoperable, speaking with numerous hospitals about what is the best treatment, wondering “just how long do I have left to live?” Maybe a month after diagnosis I decided I was going to try to write some music and do something normal.

After a few hours I took off my headphones and the entire reality of my situation came rushing back in. I realized that while writing I was completely in creative flow and had not even thought about my cancer. That was when I started writing the songs for THABWY.

Could you tell us about the role of music in your life, especially during challenging times?

Music was a passion from a very young age, I remember learning “Hot Cross Buns” on cello in 3rd grade. It was also the way I found my people through my adolescent age, and expressed a lot of emotion and thought that I was not really shown how to do through language. I’ve been working on using words and language to communicate emotions over the past few years as it is a crucial skill that I never seemed to learn growing up.

However, picking up a guitar, drumsticks or other instrument has always just felt like a natural and easy way to convey what I am feeling. This is my relationship with music, and I think creating it is just the ultimate outlet for feelings I struggle to communicate in other ways. Once I applied this coping mechanism to work through the mental assault of a cancer diagnosis I was off to the races. I wrote music in the past 2 years at the fastest pace of my life.

Thought Trials

How has your approach to writing and producing music changed after your diagnosis?

Not much has changed in my technical approach, but I will say that I am not as afraid of trying new things anymore. When I learned that my life might be a lot shorter than I was originally planning for, I began saying yes to new things more easily.

I want to milk this one life I have for all its worth. This includes experimenting with new genres of music that maybe I didn’t ever think Thought Trials would be doing (my last release Cycles was fully electronic).

The song titles like ‘Palinopsia’ and ‘Glioma’ hint at a very personal journey. Could you explain the significance of these titles in relation to your experiences?

Listening to THABWY front to back is the intended experience as it is a chronological accompaniment to the past few years of my life. Palinopsia is the term for the visual hallucinations I was experiencing that prompted me to get that first MRI done.

I would see repeating flashing images in my field of vision, completed hallucinations of objects that were not there. I later found out that these were seizures caused by the growing tumor in the vision center of my brain. In track 1 you will hear the sounds I heard being carted through hospital hallways as doctors and nurses tried to find the best words to use in telling me that I had a sprawling mass growing in my brain. No one used the word cancer until a couple weeks later.

Tracks 2,3 and 4 (Oligo,Dendro,Glioma) are the name of my specific cancer – and musically they are going to take you through the shit storm of brain surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Side B of the album are more forward looking – and it holds both my fear and my optimism of the future.

Thought Trials

Facing a serious health challenge can be transformative. How do you think this experience has reshaped your perspective on life and music?

I try to say yes more. I’ve come to peace that short of some miraculous cure – my life will not be as long as I once hoped. I want to pack in what I can and do good while I am here. I’m not as afraid of commitment or opening myself up. On the other side of the coin, sometimes I can feel cynical of disappointed in this world.

Theres so much pain and suffering (not myself, but in the world at large). I’ve gone through some situational depression and do what I can to maintain relative contentedness and be useful to the people around my I care about.

Thought Trials

Music can be a powerful tool for raising awareness. Are there any messages or information you hope to spread through this album about your condition or about brain cancer in general?

Music is not my career and its by far a monetary net loss for me. I do it because I love it and its a wonderful outlet. Amazingly, people across the world have enjoyed what I am creating. I will shamelessly use my tiny platform to spread awareness and messages that are important to me – as I always have.

I’ve stumbled upon so many wonderful non-profit organizations out there that have helped me and my family through this cancer treatment. Many focus on the adolescent/young-adult experience being diagnosed. Younger people are faced with a unique set of challenges when diagnosed. Many are just trying to start a family, dating, grow a career, or just be active with their body. A few groups I’d like to call out that I am passionate about:

SendIt Foundation: 100% free outdoor adventure trips with a small group of co-survivors and fighters.

DearJack Foundation: Providing monetary grants to young adults currently undergoing treatment as well as therapeutic trips for survivors.

MD Anderson AYA Support: A virtual community open to anyone to vent and hold space for each other.

Lastly, looking to the future, how do you see your music evolving, and are there any new projects we can look forward to?

I play in a local band that has some shows planned this summer.

I also will be performing with Greybloom at Post. Festival in Indianapolis this summer.

After that, I would like to start the 3rd LP. As with my previous releases – I don’t want to repeat the same album twice.

I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do yet but I do know it’s going to need to be heavy!

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