My last encounter with Plus Instruments was the 'Trancesonics' album from 2013, and since then, Truus de Groot has been kinda busy, sneaking by a limited vinyl release ('Exile in Paradise') that I wasn't even aware of prior to this one. Whereas on 'Trancesonics' Truus had only a little help from a single musician (Jimmy Virani on theremin and moog), here she employs additional musicians Paulo Bento (synths, bass, guitar) from Anvil FX and James Sclavunos (drums) from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Grinderman. The result is something a lot less raw and a lot more controllled than 'Trancesonics,' yet still with that kind of "synth electronics as synth electronics" (as opposed to synths trying to emulate real instruments) ethic that seems integral to de Groot's music. Here Plus Instruments sounds a lot more like a real band than a solo artist with a lot of synths as on 'Trancesonics'.
Truus's vocal stylings have changed too; less experimental, less New Waveish, a lot more melodic, and somewhat jazzy and slightly soulful. Imagine Anette Peacock meets Amy Winehouse with someone else I've heard but can't remember her name. Plus Instruments tackles a variety of themes over the ten tracks on this album - a strange supernatural encounter ("Ghost"); passion ("This Fire Burns"); romantic breakup ("It's Over"); seduction ("Come Closer"). Some of the songs that work the best though can't be pigeon-holed to a specific theme, such as the title track "Signal Through the Waves". This little gem relies heavily on a distinctive sample & hold synth riff, a ring modulated chordal descending chordal progression and Sclavunos's snazzy drumming. Truus's voice is at her most appealing on this track, and the lyrics are great too. This track alone makes the disc a worthy purchase. Another great track is "Bad Mood" (rather self-explanatory) where drudgy broom-swept synths and plodding drums and bass back Truus's misery-tinged bluesy vocals. "You and Me" is as close as Plus Instruments gets to some of the chaotic 80's style experimentation so prevalent on 'Trancesonics'. But the most atypical song on 'Signal Through The Waves' is the last- "Your Mind" with guitar as the main instrument, and seething synths in the background. The poetic nature of this number is comparable to Patti Smith at the height of her powers.
'Signal Through The Waves' shows just how much de Groot has grown as an artist, and the songs are worth revisiting over and over again. While these tracks are more acessible, don't mistake accessibility for commerciality. This ain't mainstream, and we can be very thankful for that.