A bizarre, bold and beautiful new release from Mark Templeton on Graphical Recordings. Distorted Tourist is a 5 flexi-disc and 106 page photo/written book that winds through a succession of weekdays in the form of a unique, semi-fictional long poem. Starting on a Tuesday and ending on a Saturday (technically a Thursday, but I don’t want to give too much away), the story unfolds as a first person account of a character’s never-ending expedition to visit a dying loved one. Written as personal diary entries, author Ryan Diduck subjects his protagonist to the Kalfkaesque perils of a world where things don’t ever seem to go right.
Peppered throughout the story are pages of Mark Templeton’s photographs, his lens turned toward the minutiae of urban and industrial decay. The story and photos bear correlation, but their link is anything but clearly defined. However, the two complement each other well, along with the music (which I’ll get to). I like to think of the images as scenes from the story, areas our protagonist may have hobbled through while seeking the car they’ve misplaced, all the while cursing a soaked-through shoe from stepping in a puddle. As the travelogue unfolds, our protagonist’s grip on reality does also, to the extent that by the tale’s end the reader cannot be entirely sure of what experiences actually took place and what ones were acted out only within the complex neural networks of the brain.
Templeton’s contributions are equally dream-like, his music’s obfuscated, hypnotic textures blurring a similar line between an accurate sonic depiction of geography and one conceived entirely from imagination. The tracks are site-specific works that come in the form of flexi-discs that are slotted between the book’s pages at the beginning of each day. Each one is a short composition created from augmented field recordings captured at each mentioned location: Alland, Rosen, Coro, Tyre, and Gira. I sit here now and imagine the different realities any individual might dream up if cast into the belly of these same places, and wonder if any could tap into the romantic liminality that makes Distorted Tourist such a delight. It’s not a query I’ll ever likely have answered, which is fine, as the lure of this release is plenty enough for now.