Eric McDowell

Writer and editor based in Boston. MFA in fiction from the Helen Zell Writers' Program.

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Unflinching Empathy: An Interview with Mimi Lok

"You might love, hate, or feel conflicted about these characters—but the main thing is that you believe in them and feel compelled to follow them wherever they go": Mimi Lok and Eric McDowell talk process, empathy, and Lok's debut collection, Last of Her Name, out now from Kaya Press. “Last of Her Name,” the eponymous first story in Mimi Lok’s debut collection (Kaya Press, 2019), opens in the aftermath of a childhood stunt gone awry. Trying to act out a scene from The Return of the Condor Heroe

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John McCowen — Solo Contra (International Anthem)

While at a glance the title of John McCowen’s new album presents a certain inscrutability — Solo Contra? — a closer look reveals simple practicality: It is, of course, an album of solo contrabass clarinet music. There’s something of this double-take dynamic at work in McCowen himself. A Mills graduate (he studied under Roscoe Mitchell) whose recorded output as a leader has so far consisted of challenging works for solo clarinet and clarinet quartets, McCowen’s backstory suggests a more down-to-e

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Ben Frost — The Centre Cannot Hold (Mute)

The Centre Cannot Hold by Ben Frost What could be more on the nose than naming an album of stark post-apocalyptic soundscapes after Yeats’s “Second Coming?” Yet when Ben Frost does it, it’s possible to catch a note of challenge in the choice: Yeah, he went there. It’s a bold move (to borrow another deflated phrase), and bold moves carry with them the possibility of big returns — or spectacular flops. The Australia-born, Iceland-based composer knows the deal. In a 2014 interview, he remarked tha

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Jaimie Branch – Fly or Die (International Anthem)

Who is Jaimie Branch? As an answer to that question, Fly or Die is definitive. The Chicagoan-turned-Brooklynite’s overdue debut is bursting with the pent-up energy of years spent cultivating an impishly bold voice and collaborating widely without the deserved reward of a reputation outside the local scene. Perhaps there’s something romantic about the image of the artist toiling under-recognized — in the face, not to mention, of commercial implausibility and historical prejudice (she’s a female f

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Dan Weiss: Starebaby

Like any self-respecting polymath, Dan Weiss doesn’t like labels. Labels restrict, after all. They close doors, forcing false choices. Is he a drummer or a composer? A bandleader or a sideman? A master of his craft or a lifelong student? Likewise, there may be more right ways than wrong to describe his latest album, Starebaby — a hyphen-hungry avant-jazz-prog-metal collection of eight tunes that brood, groove and smash their way to the center of the listener’s being. Finding the balancing point