By Tony Coulter
I discovered the French cassette (and vinyl) label Illusion Production around 1984, shortly after I started doing a radio show on WKCR in New York City. My show wasn’t specifically oriented to cassettes, just to interesting new music—but because a lot of great music was only on cassette, I inevitably played a fair number of cassettes mixed in with the vinyl.
To this day, Illusion Production’s cassette releases are among my favorites from the cassette era. I can’t now recall how I first discovered them (possibly through Archie Patterson’s Eurock?), but I still cherish them, both for the music and for the quirky and elaborate packaging, the latter usually (always?) created by the label’s founders, Déficit des Années Antérieures (D.D.A.A.). The majority of Illusion Production releases featured the music of D.D.A.A.—but there are also great tapes by other French bands and musicians like Un Département and Bernard C (Bernard Chappuis), as well as tapes by non-French acts like the Legendary Pink Dots, Bene Gesserit, and Kevin Harrison & Steven Parker.
Illusion Production also put out a series of wonderful compilation tapes under the name Sensationnel, which they released between 1983 and 1987. These four tapes (No 3/4 was a double issue, so the final tape is No 5) had a big influence on my tastes, and very much guided me in my search for new music—for better or worse, they oriented me toward Europe, and France in particular, which meant I missed out on a lot of interesting American stuff.
While I didn’t correspond a whole lot with the label, I did become a subscriber, and still fondly remember the packages I received from them, which always included one-of-a-kind graphic extras, like little paintings on cardboard. I’ve still got some of that artwork somewhere, buried away in a box. I know I’ll be happy when I find it again!