Cantor Dust — ‘Too Many Stars,’ 3.5/5

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As life on Earth grows endlessly louder and hotter, it’s hardly a surprise that the vast quietude of the cosmos seems to beckon. There’s a strange comfort in that expansive, chilling silence — perhaps there are solutions out there, hiding in the stars.

Cantor Dust clearly thinks so. An avant-prog album — an experimental, avant-garde approach to progressive rock — the duo’s new record, Too Many Stars, is a dramatically-rendered soundtrack to an unfamiliar voyage, a search for answers that can’t be found on our planet.

Cantor Dust creates a mercifully economic form of space-age prog-rock, free of 15-minute epics or endless guitar solos. Rather, they keep things relatively simple, with spacious arrangements that rely mostly on synths, piano and Natanielle Felicitas’s dynamic cello to tell Mark Klassen’s stories of discovery and uncertainty.

The record is billed as a “search for light,” and this desire is accentuated by the record’s elemental tone. With song titles like “Sick,” “Sorrow,” “Forth” and “Space,” Too Many Stars seems occupied by big concepts and ideas, complex in their universal simplicity.

The record has the tendency to blur individual songs together, as if you’re listening to one long song — an odyssey into the depths of space. Its heavier moments — like the metal-influenced “Weary” — are welcome interruptions, like asteroids careening into view.

However, they’re also the tracks most likely to grate on those who find this brand of space-age prog-rock corny or pompous, as the album is at its most welcoming when it veers soft and contemplative.

Space prog-rock has often had a contentious relationship with the critical community, its overblown theatrics and indulgence keeping many a discerning ear at bay. One of the core issues with the modern interpretation is that little music in this vein actually sounds space-age — that there is an ever-present sheen of cheesiness and pretension, compounded by less-than-forward-thinking execution and sound.

Too Many Stars generally avoids these pitfalls, mostly able to stand on its own as experimental pop — though it’s unlikely to appeal to those already averse to prog-rock’s dramatics. But if you’re looking for a more clear-eyed, considered approach to spaced-out rock, Cantor Dust’s hunt for the light offers a good starting point.