In 1979 Edgar Froese met Johannes Schmoelling, who joined Tangerine Dream to reestablish the trio status of the group. This line-up would come to be regarded by many fans as the strongest in the band's history. The first record project of the new line-up was Tangram (the title originating from a very old Chinese puzzle), released in the spring of 1980. It was recorded in Chris Franke's new Polygon studio complex in Berlin, and once again the music filled up two complete sides of an LP and had a warmer, almost symphonic sound than previous TD albums. Tangram is regarded to be one of the most dramatic albums ever released by the group. The mixture of smoothness with familiar TD elements landed the album in the British Top 40.
In 1984 the album was released on CD for the first time as part of a series by Virgin. With the exception of Exit, all releases of this series had a similar cover design, using only part of the original artwork in a monochrome border that featured the band and album title.
In 1995 Virgin re-released the album on CD in the so-called "Definitive Edition" series, featuring the original front cover artwork, but like most of the other releases of this series, it contains some little errors: Peter Baumann's name is misspelled Baummann in the booklet; the spelling is correct on the backside insert, but anyway this is the wrong place: Johannes Schmoelling should appear as composer instead of Peter Baumann.
In June 2008 a completely reworked version of this album has been released, titled Tangram 2008. It features new cover artwork, completely different from the original design that had be done by Monika Froese. Most probably by mistake, Edgar Froese re-used the same artwork he had already used for the download version of the album The Soft Dream Decade. The originally two compositions are split into seven individual, numbered "episodes" though most of them fade seamlessly into each other.
The booklet contains quite extensive liner notes by Bianca Acquaye:
About the album title: "During the research of old Chinese paintings, Edgar first heard about the puzzle's philosophy by reading about a servant of a Chinese emperor who crashed with a very expensive tile. The tile shattered in dozens of smaller pieces. In panic the servant tried to patch up the pieces in its original square form. Instead of being successful here, he created lots of patterns and images never seen before. He became a well-known artist in his time."
About the original recording session: "When the first recording session of Tangram began back in 1980, Johannes Schmoelling joined the band just a few months ago. Confronted with new equipment and working philosophies he had a hard time getting into the TD mechanics which always have been different from any other recording sessions. He finally was a very supportive musician and his contributions on this production was very obvious. When Tangram got released in the UK later in 1980 it became a remarkable success within the world of new popular music." It is remarkable that Chris Franke, who was member of the group at that time, is not mentioned at all in this section.
About the new version: "The re-recording of Tangram wasn't easy at all. Lots of samples and instruments had to be re-discovered to get as close as possible to the atmosphere of the original recording. At the same time it had to be the sound of 2008. Research for the original synth guitar from the Japanese Roland company as well as endless puzzelings within TD's older sampling library was a very time consuming factor. Fortunately Christian Stettner who had administered a great portion of TD's sound library back in 1980 did also work on the new project. So after a couple of months most of the basic work was done. Edgar did play all the parts by himself. Today -- after 28 years -- Tangram sounds as if it would have been recorded now -- with musical strength and the incomparable TD sound."
In September 2008 the re-release became available as MP3 download at the Tangerine Dream Download Shop as well, and in March 2009 Tangram 2008 was re-released with different cover design as part of an extensive digipack series (consisting of a total of more than 60 CD and DVD releases) by the Germany based Membran record label; in May 2009 it was re-released in Japan as part of a series of HiQualityCDs with mini LP paper sleeves.