Soul-Junk: Avant-Garde Gospel

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Glen Galloway is a man of many hats: jazz enthusiast, commercial-jingle producer, former high-school teacher, father, Christian. On the phone from his San Diego home, he switches with ease between deep theological references and Japanese noise artists, as though they were closely related. But right now, Galloway’s telling me about his time spent in legendary early ’90s noise-rock ensemble Trumans Water, and when he branched out on his own in 1993 with a higher purpose. “We’d have these long drives, so I would just sit there and read the Bible,” he explains. “Here I was, doing exactly what I thought I wanted to do, but reading the book of Acts and thinking, ‘This is how I want to live.’”

He subsequently adopted the moniker Glen Galaxy, and has spent the last 15 years building an impressively diverse discography as Soul-Junk. Filled with challenging ideas in both the musical and spiritual realms, Soul-Junk records are difficult to pin down, inhabiting an expansive universe of Captain Beefheart-style noise rock, bedroom drum & bass, and messy, deconstructed hip-hop.

The ever-changing sound from record to record is anchored by a system of numeric titles beginning with 1994’s wonderfully sloppy 1950. “I picked 1950 as a jump-off year because in 1993 I was listening to the noisiest music I could find: free jazz, Japanese noise, whatever would stretch me the furthest,” he says. “And all of a sudden things like Giant Steps or early Sun Studios rock ’n’ roll records were getting a hold of me. It was that era that inspired me to make what I thought was pop music.”

Another unifying theme is Galloway’s focus on Christianity, which manifests itself in everything from straight-up scripture reading to the playful raps of 2000’s 1956, which criticized the church for polluting spirituality with dogma. Still, after the release of 1958, a record filled with free-noise beats and abstract rhymes, it was time for a return to simplicity.

“I felt really strongly that I needed to record scripture,” says Galloway. “I was getting tired of the words I had written, but not the words from the Bible.” His solution? Sing the entire good book onto micro-cassette, and piece together different chapters into songs, which either appear on his blog or newer Soul-Junk records. 1959 is the first full album culled from this endeavor, a bizarre audio collage of Psalms 1 to 23 over lo-fi gospel organs, weirdo samples, and below-the-surface pop hooks.

The bible is a large text, suggesting there is much more to come from this scriptural journey. The next stop is1960, a dense rock record that explores Psalm 119 with cello and piano alongside open-tuned guitars, reminiscent of Galloway’s time in Trumans Water.

Still, as the albums keep coming, the reason for continuing the project is more personal. “In terms of hanging out with the Holy Spirit, the relationship keeps getting better and better,” Galloway explains. “Why keep going with a band after 15 years? Well, if it’s just a snapshot of a relationship that keeps getting better, then why not?”